You don’t just stop digging!
I am delighted some gardeners are now considering stopping digging. Perhaps I might review some of the most important advantages that I have discussed so far.
- significant reduction in time and effort.
- access to the soil in wet weather.
- it is more natural than cultivation and encourages wildlife within and above the soil.
- plants will be healthier, far healthier and sometimes when no dig is practiced in permanent borders it may be the difference between a plants’ life or death.
- as the years pass weed control becomes much easier.
There will be more worms for him!
I am absolutely convinced that deep cultivation amongst established plants is very bad practice. I am more relaxed about digging in the vegetable garden. Personally I am very keen on the merits of ‘no dig’ in the vegetable garden, but am happy to concede that skilled practitioners in traditional systems will achieve equal and, in some cases, better results.
Making the change
I would like to point out that if you take up ‘no dig’ you will have to be patient and make some changes to your gardening philosophy.
- Some benefits of ‘no dig’ occur straight away, others improve with time and continue to increase for many years.
- Many cultivations ‘sow the seed’ of the need for the next cultivation. The first cultivation might give short term benefit but long term harm. These ill effects take some time to be worked out of the system.
- You have to change your perception of a healthy soil.
- You must rid yourself of myths and notions about aerating the soil. Yes, cultivation will aerate it, but with unfortunate consequences.
- Your weed control needs to be excellent. Do not let weeds seed. Eliminate perennial weeds at the very start: constant forking-out of weed roots is as bad as digging! This advice might daunt you, but as time passes weed control becomes swift and easy.
- Dug soil in ornamental borders slakes down with rainfall and in dry conditions becomes hard. This makes it appear necessary to dig again to undo the damage. It’s like a junkie needing another fix. ‘Cold turkey’ is often needed. It might come in the form of a surface mulch such as bark or garden compost.
A mulch will start to undo the
damage done by previous digging
You do not need to use glyphosate but it certainly helps
I have expressed my own philosophy in the post ‘Batting for glyphosate’.
It is possible to eliminate perennial weed by non chemical methods. Organic gardeners do it all the time and it’s hard work. Go to Charles Dowding’s wonderful organic no-dig site to find out how to do it. It sometimes involves the successful use old carpets, plastic mulches and newspaper.
Allotment gardeners frequently tell you about old carpets ‘wick with wicken’ (couch grass) and other perennial weeds. They are usually on abandoned plots of would-be organic gardeners! I must admit, I cannot understand anyone refusing to use glyphosate when they use environmentally suspect polythene. Newspapers? I am, myself, keen on the many garden uses of newspaper and recycle all of ours this way.