to dig or not to dig that is the question

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  • having just finished digging my new allotment over ive come across a number of articles saying that no dig is the way to go as digging will kill life in the soil and each time it will become less productive. Has anyone tried this and can i step back from the brink?

  • If you don't want to dig, then you want a huge layer of mulch instead. What is sometimes useful is to push a fork in and rock it about to break up any compaction and let air in. If you've dug it already, as long as you don't walk on it, it won't get compacted.

  • Last year I went to a great talk by Bob Flowerdew about no dig made loads of sense to me (in nature plants grow and the soil isn't dug...digging veg gardens was something that was done in big houses to make it look like the gardeners were working hard in non-growing seasons, to keep them employed...) I'm going to try it this year.

  • No dig gardening is my preferred method. Like julian said though, compaction can be an issue when you first start out, there are ways around actually digging, like planting deep rooted plants to break the soil structure up and bring some of the deeper nutrients back to the top, comfreys a common one for that. But if you dont' have the time a fork can do wonders, haha.

  • I've got to plant a new rhubarb patch this week - the area has been sheeted for a few months and now there is a mat of brown grass roots on top of soil that is fairly compacted. What should I do about 'no dig' in this situation? Surely I should clear the grass roots because once they're re-exposed to light, they may well start sprouting again, and wouldn't there be a risk of crowding out the rhubarb plants? (I also want to plant gooseberries, redcurrants and raspberries in the same area...)

  • Mulch mulch mulch, :). Pull what you can out easily and compost it then mulch the whole area very heavily. Also, it's no dig, not no rake! Open small holes in the mulch for where you want to plant the rhubarb, then just weed in the area inbetween the rhubarb and the mulch. When they're bigger you can mulch right upto the stems and you will barely need to weed at all. If you don't let the roots get to the light they'll soon rot under the moist mulch.

  • I've never heard of this method before, :S I have always been tought to dig and compost the ground, although I must admit it has been a while since I double dug the plot.

  • I dug mine when I first moved here, which brought all the clay to the top, dug in loads of sheep pooh and mulch, now I may (but very rarely) turn a bed over in the autumn and leave the winter frosts to do the rest of the work for me.

  • That looks very good, i've just looked quick at it will have a proper look soon.
    Just a quick question , I have an empt plot now, how do I start this, just cover it in horse manure? :thumbup:

  • Well pretty soon I suppose, was thinking of borrowing my dad's tiller in the next week or so.

    Ideally, you should prepare the beds in 6 months advance but I've made beds straight off that have turned out okay, not incredible like. Just, as everything decomposes in the bed and your plants are planted you might need to supplement on nitrogen and phosphorous, maybe get some nitrogen fixers straight in there aswell? It's because the bacteria that break down the organic materials feed on nitrogen and phosphorous so it can take it out of the soil a bit and deplete their levels. Just fork the ground a bit, make a bed and dump your new soil/compost/manuRE straight on top of the ground, use a tonne of worms and it'll soon sort itself out. Not an ideal no dig situation but it does the trick! But remember that if there is raw manure in your soil mixture that hasn't decomposed just yet you do need to mulch pretty well so that the vegetables don't rest on shit!

  • there always seem to be less weeds in the year after the spuds have been in a part of the plot.
    the good news is that after several weeks visits and only getting a fraction of the plot dug, today I managed to get my rotorvator running using the 'spare' engine and the best parts from the two machines. so just a few hours work will get the rest looking nice, then I can dig and weed at my leisure afterwards.

  • I've done no dig for a year on half my plot. Very visible difference between the stuff that was dug and disturbed last year in terms of fresh weed growth. Loads more on the dug side and lots less on the mulched and undug side. One thinbg to note thoug is that deep rooted weeds and things like nettles will nedd a little digging to remove them. But once they're gone they're gone. fter that it's mainly light hoeing to keep them down. You'll nver win against the weeds permanently though. They've about 2 million years of evolution on us, they're much better at surviving.

    Through violence you may solve one problem, but you will sow the seeds for another...

  • We like to dig here at the end of autumn , gets oxygen into the soil and helps it drain during the winter. Then early January we like to wop 6 inches of compost on top of the dug soil.Then dig that in 2 months later . Early spring our soil is nice :)

  • If you like digging then dig but you don't need to dig and for the good of the soil it's better not to.

    Cover the soil with anything you have that's organic like manure, wood chips (in winter), wool, straw etc. and just plant into the mulch.

    There are so many advantages to not digging - have look on the 'net to find out more.

    It's too late now to start a no-dig garden but cover your veg with straw to keep the weeds down and your soil will become more productive and easier to manage next year.