No-dig gardening was the brain child of Australian gardener Esther Deans in the 1970s. It’s a truly organic concept of gardening that also incorporates the gardening without doing any work, which is unusual for an Australian. No-dig gardening can help rejuvenate badly depleted soil and is essential to allow time for other interests in life, like drinking gin and binge watching Netflix.
Start your no dig garden with layers of newspaper and add compost and straw in successive layers. This will create the growing medium without having to dig or loosen the soil. The mix is rich in nutrients for the plants, especially the compost and degrading straw. The layers will also make weeding much easier, which is ideal for do nothing gardeners like myself. Earthworms love the mix and these guys will in turn speed up the rotting process and help loosen the mulch for the plants to get a firm hold, and add more nutrients. ‘cos earthworms just go when the need arises, if you catch my meaning.
Add more compost and manure – horse manure, not your own or the neighbours will have something to say about your behaviour (and the smell). Apart from that, do nothing. Keep the weeds at bay if you need to, and spread a little compost or manure on the patch occasionally and that is about it.
Apart from the appealing concept of having a garden with virtually no hard work whatsoever, there are serious environmental benefits to no dig gardening.
Firstly, you are adding nutrients to the soil. This is essential for badly over-used soil that has had all the goodness used up. It’s also 100% organic, chemical and toxin free and wont cost you any money. Your compost heap you can make your self – see our post here – and straw and horse manure should be available free from any stable or farmyard, so no more awful Sunday afternoons going to the garden centre.
Your No Dig garden won’t work if you have never loosened the soil though. Tightly compacted soil will work fine at first but may struggle to maintain healthy plants. This is because the nutrients you are adding are struggling to permeate the hard packed ground and aren’t reaching the plants like they should.
Our friends the earth worms will also struggle with the hard packed ground as they will not be able to find shelter from predators or the hot sun or cold conditions, as your no-dig layer will not offer them adequate protection. Your fertile layer will become a killing ground for them. Eventually they will die out or move on from your patch, to it’s detriment.
So initially loosen the soil to give your no dig garden the best chance of maintaining a healthy environment for your plants.
My belief is that an initial cultivation of the soil before you apply the no-dig system will guarantee a better environment for the worms, and thus a better garden for growing your plants, over the longer term.
Of course a real no dig garden means enlisting Dronfield Garden Services to do the job for you. If you have a need for a regular gardener, or you occasional or one-off help with the big jobs in the garden, give our friendly team a call, we will be only too glad to do the hard work for you.
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