We’re taking a new ‘no-dig’ approach to growing our own vegetables this season. With less soil disturbance, the soil structure should significantly improve within a year or so, and in the meantime we’ll benefit from fewer weeds, fewer pests and, hopefully, a better crop.
‘No-Dig’ gardening is exactly what it implies: gardening without digging. The basic idea is that, rather than digging over the soil each season, you simply cover the soil with a layer of mulch (we’re using compost). This replicates what happens in nature, with leaves etc decomposing on the surface of the soil before they turn to compost and eventually are incorporated into the soil itself, feeding it with nutrients at the same time.
The other aspect of no-dig is that by not digging, you do not interrupt the natural activity of the creatures and organisms living in the soil, but instead you leave them to do what they do best. They are constantly working the soil and improving its structure organically and over time the benefits of this will be seen in the growth of the plants.
We’ve started getting ready now, so that we can plant out in mid to late April (or perhaps earlier if the weather allows!) Rather than having multiple raised beds, we’re simply preparing heaped rows of compost to grow in. By doing this, we’re naturally reducing slug habitats (no hiding under wooden borders), so the slugs and snails will have to relocate to other areas of the farm and hopefully they will be less tempted to eat our precious crops.
The process is fairly straightforward. We’ve laid down sheets of cardboard on top of the ground (directly on top of grass/weeds/bare soil) and covered this with a thick layer of compost. In theory, the weeds below the cardboard won’t have enough light and so will die off. Meanwhile, we’ll be planting into the compost and should have a lovely, weed-free veg patch up and running soon!