No dig raised beds is another type or method of gardening that is not widely used, nevertheless, it’s still used by some growers to great success. It may have been the only ever method of gardening that they are familiar with and possibly started out with this method initially. How did this type of gardening come about, was it just discovered by accident or was it trialled or researched by some gardening scholars, we don’t really know. As the title of this post suggests, do we save time and energy by using this method, well without giving a short reply, the answer is yes and no, if that makes sense.
For years and years, we dug and tilled the soil for a number of reasons, like aeration, removing the unwanted material like stones and roots etc. Another reason would be to add some nutrition to the soil in order to enrich it and prepare it for the impending growing season. The no dig practice is seen as more scientific and experimental rather than practical, yet it will still deliver on pretty good returns of our vegetables.
Why no dig;
The whole purpose of this gardening practice is totally scientific as we mentioned above and when the soil is not disturbed in this fashion, the microbes and organisms in the soil have created a type of food storage parlour for our vegetables and crops. It’s a two way street in a sense, as the plants transfer some nutrients to the soil over their growing period, the microbes feed off these and convert them into soil minerals, which enriches the soil in return. I have seen some great books on this subject and naturally these books have been written by authors that have used this system of gardening and would be widely seen as having great expertise and knowledge in this area.
Why do dig;
For those of us that do plant a garden are familiar with the preparation and readying a garden for planting. It can be a back breaking exercise at times as we toil and labor, before we sow our crops and vegetables. The whole purpose of digging a garden is to aerate the soil, perhaps leave the soil dry out after a long cold wet winter and maybe to add some compost or manure. The type of garden that we will have ie, raised bed or open ground, will dictate how much work is required for this preparation exercise. Previously, we have covered the preparation methods and requirements for both types of garden and have outlined the necessary work for each, which can be read here.
How to make a no dig raised bed;
Again depending on what type of a garden we have in our backyards, raised or open ground, the system for this type will be the same for both. We must stress that making a raised bed no dig garden will be much much more easier than the other. For the raised bed method, we have a dedicated confined area of ground to work with and this reduces the workload considerably.
Lets begin after harvest as this is the optimum time to make a no gig garden. As soon as all the plants, vegetables and their leaves and roots have been removed, we go ahead and add some well rotted compost or farmyard manure. After this has been applied, we cover these layers completely with either straw, newspapers or cardboard and in some cases sheets of old used plastic have been used for this purpose. If we have used straw or newspaper for this no dig garden, we then need to water thoroughly, so that the paper don’t blow away. The watering also assists and helps with the bio-degrading of the manure and the compost into the soil. Before laying the plastic, we will need to water thoroughly as rainwater will not permeate through this type of cover. Place some heavy material like planks or stones in order to keep the plastic in place over the winter months. Alternatively, the plastic could be tacked to the sides or frames of the raised beds, which may be an easier option.
Other types of material to make no dig raised beds, that we could use would be grass cuttings, leaves, hedge trimmings, bark mulch, old mushroom compost and so on. I have seen old carpets and large old rugs used here in some cases. In effect anything that would decay and compost into the soil eventually, may be used for this purpose. Obviously the plastic will not decay, but we can still leave it in place, just make some openings for planting and away we go. it will help in no small way to keep weeds at bay.
Is no dig natures way;
In essence we could say this and when we have examined the following examples, we can see why. Take the managed forestry as a comparison to this type of gardening. When these trees are planted initially, its done by simply digging a hole for the rootball, place the tree sapling into this opening, cover in and firm into place. There is no great tilling or preparation whatsoever, in fact the soil is almost totally undisturbed. Look at all the woodlands we have walked through and notice the tress that have grown in these envoirnments, they may have been planted or grown naturally. However, we will notice that the forest floor is totally undisturbed and yet these trees survive and flourish, without any human intervention. One notable result of this type of gardening is that we could practically declare it to be organic, as we have not used any artificial fertiliser whatsoever.
We may be rubbing our hands in glee when we first hear of this type of gardening, in that, there is no digging required. But as we see from the above, that is not the case. There is still some work required and in some cases the workload is somewhat more than what’s required for the traditional methods. I hope that this information is useful in explaining all about no dig raised beds. Feel free to contact us at any time via the comments box down below and we will duly reply to all of your concerns.
Happy gardening to all,
Cheers Phil Browne.