PostHeaderIcon A Brief Introduction to No-Dig Gardening

The idea of no-dig gardening was developed by an Australian named Esther Deans. It was originally developed as a labor saving idea and a method to rejuvenate badly depleted soil in a vegetable garden.

The process involves adding lucerne hay, straw and compost in succeeding layers of newspapers. This creates a growing medium without resorting to heavy digging. The soil will be rich in nutrients, which in turn will simplify weeding and encourage plant growth. The gardens are maintained by adding manure, compost, etc. However, it should not be dug up, as this will undo the good work. Many people have used this method to create vegetable gardens and have yielded good results.

The principle of not digging has sound foundations. Experienced gardeners will tell you that excessive cultivation of the soil (especially when it is very dry or very wet) will damage its structure and lead to soil compaction. Excessive cultivation also discourages the earthworms, which are the best helpers for a gardener.

Some followers of permaculture and organic gardening have interpreted no-dig as never-dig, which I believe is a mistake. If you start off with badly compacted base soil, your no-dig garden will work well initially but the good performance will not last long. The fertile layer you have built up will encourage the earthworms, but we know that the worms need shelter from excessively hot, dry, cold or wet conditions. In order to seek shelter, the worms will burrow deeper into the soil, at times even many feet down. If they cannot fail to seek shelter, they will eventually die or move out.

Personally, I would recommend an initial cultivation of the soil before you apply the no-dig system. Doing so guarantees a better environment for the worms, hence, a superior garden for growing your plants, over the longer term.

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