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4 Advantages of No Dig Gardening?

No dig is a method of gardening that is often used for vegetable gardening, but can be applied to all planting.

The concept is that by not disturbing the soil by digging, the soil structure remains intact. Good soil structure has fungi, microbes, worms and organic matter.  The fungi grow down deeper than roots and bring nutrients back up closer to the surface, thus making them available to plants. It’s a wonderful network which, once established, will support plants to grow healthier, larger and more resilient.  The preservation of the soil structure is the core principle of no dig gardening.

A diagram of no dig gardening

The method was popularised in the 40’s as the “compost method” but has more recently been championed by Charles Dowding as NO dig gardening, and is something of a revolution. 

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  1. It takes less effort, as you top up your beds once or twice a year with 3/5cm of compost rather than constantly digging over plots or beds.

  2. The weeds tend to be better suppressed as you bury them under cardboard.  When they do emerge you take off the green shoots rather than pulling out the roots, ensuring more organic matter remains in the soil. Most weeds spread by being disturbed or dug up, as the stress stimulates growth and flowering (and therefore seed setting) and many weeds can also regrow from broken fragments of root or stem, so avoiding breaking up the plant minimises the risk of this.

  3. Worm paths remain intact, helping to keep the soil open for oxygen and improving water infiltration and drainage.

  4. Constant digging can lead to compaction at lower levels of soil and also breaks up the physical structure of the soil particles, meaning soil can settle and become waterlogged.

At Cultivate Gardens our preference is to use “spent mushroom compost” in our planting schemes, as it’s not only great for the soil structure, but is also full of nutrients and fungal spores that stimulate the development of a robust and healthy fungal network.

You can use any old brown cardboard, but ensure to overlap it so there are no gaps from flaps or slits in the packaging as this can allow weeds to take hold. You should also carefully remove any plastic tape before using it. Finally, firm down the compost by treading on it to settle it down and prevent it being blown around in dry weather. A layer of woodchips over the top of the compost can also help with this.

So whether you have a large allotment or a small raised vegetable bed in your garden, have a go at no dig gardening!

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