An Introduction to No-Dig Gardening

Have you ever thought that you would like to get more into gardening but were put off by all the digging involved? Good news – there are many who believe that you can have an amazing organic vegetable and flower garden without having to dig much at all. In fact, many would argue that it is actually better for your garden soil and the organisms in it to keep digging and tilling to a minimum. There are many reasons to adopt a no-dig gardening system – not just for the good of your back.

In no-dig gardening, you may still have to use a spade occasionally – for example when you are lifting parsnips from the ground or to remove a plant with a long tap root that has seeded itself in the wrong place, you will still hoe occasionally to remove weeds – but most of the time you will not have to disturb the delicate ecosystem that is the soil in your garden. This means that the fragile system, teeming with life, can be left to get on with its job of growing plants as nature intended.

No-dig gardening involves enhancing the soil of your garden rather than disturbing it. This is achieved by adding layers of organic matter to the soil like a big lasagna. By spreading an organic mulch or compost on top of the soil, the integrity of the soil beneath is largely maintained and nutrient transfer is allowed to occur by natural mechanisms all on its own. You have the added satisfaction of knowing that you are allowing your garden to reach a natural balance, where surplus is returned to the system and you are working in sustainable ways.

In no dig gardening, there is no problem with soil compaction unless you tramp about on your beds too much and the soil, rich in organic matter, is aerated and healthy. Moisture is retained in the soil during the heat of the summer months and during the winter, layers of organic matter can help to protect the delicate roots and soil life.

Experts in the field have shown that there is no decrease in yield in a no-dig vegetable garden and scientific studies have shown the paucity of the biodiversity and health of tilled soil when compared to soil that has not been dug and has been protected in the way described above. Creating a no-dig vegetable bed by layering up garden and kitchen vegetable waste, plant matter, clippings, newspaper and untreated cardboard is so easy and so effective that it is a shame that this sustainable method of garden bed creation is not used more often and more widely known.