Most gardeners follow the same routine each spring: dig up the old garden and plant the new garden. But what if you didn’t have to dig? Here are some valuable reasons to not dig your garden.
Advantages of no-dig gardening: No-dig gardening is when you leave your garden alone in the spring. Instead of digging it up, add layers of compost and bark mulch and then plant your crops. The life inside your soil will continue to thrive and you will have more nutrients, fewer weeds, and better aeration.
What is no-dig gardening?
No-dig gardening is quite simple. You don’t dig up your garden.
To be more specific, you don’t dig your garden up in the spring, as most gardeners have always done in the past.
In early spring, before you start your new plants, digging was common. It was thought to loosen the soil, get rid of old chunks of plants, and make it easier to add new ones.
However, new research has shown that you can actually leave your garden alone. There are enough benefits to no-dig gardening and your soil will thrive more if left alone.
When to use no-dig gardening?
There are times when you want to dig your garden. First, if you are starting out with a new garden, it is much easier to dig the whole area up to prepare it.
This will get rid of any existing grass and weeds and will also give you a clear picture of the soil underneath. If you don’t know what kind of soil you are working with, you might not have success with your garden.
Further to this, if you have a very compact garden that is full of natural clay, then you want to dig your garden to amend it. As you dig, add in sand, compost, and quality topsoil.
Once you have your soil how you want it, you can then leave it each year and transition to a no-dig gardening method.
Advantages of no-dig gardening
Protects soil ecosystem
Even though we can’t always see it, your soil is alive and there is a complex system working in a symbiotic relationship. Micro-organisms feed off of plant roots and microscopic fungus works to transport nutrients through the soil.
As soon as you push a shovel through your soil, you are disrupting all this life. While it will grow back, it takes a long time and your garden won’t thrive as much as it would if you left the soil alone.
Aeration and drainage
Even though you may think you are creating more space in your soil when you dig, the opposite can be true. The problem is that when you disrupt the ecosystem in your garden, the result can be compacted soil.
Insects, especially worms, naturally work to aerate the soil. If they are dug up and displaced, the natural aeration won’t occur, leading to improper drainage and more work on your part.
Another misconception about digging up your garden is that it will get rid of weeds. The thought is that you can cut through their roots and turn the soil over on top of any exposed seeds.
However, underneath the surface are probably tons of seeds just waiting until they are finally exposed to sunlight. As soon as you dig up your soil, you are giving seeds the chance to grow and take over your garden.
Gardening is hard work. Add in old age and any mobility issues, and you may feel the need to step back from gardening. But, if you can make gardening less work, then you can keep at it.
Digging up your garden is back-breaking work. All that time spend bending over and moving soil is enough to give even the healthiest person a lot of muscle strain.
Ditch this unnecessary step and enjoy your garden more.
For your garden to really strive, you need to not only not dig it up but add in extra layers of nutrients. These will all work together, giving you the nutrient-rich soil your plants crave.
In the spring, the top layer of soil will be a mix of leaf mulch that is partially decayed from the fall and winter. This is rich in nitrogen so you want to preserve it.
Add a layer of compost followed by a layer of bark mulch. All these layers will break down slowly so you will have a continuous release of nutrients into your garden.
One of the most annoying parts of gardening is that you have to continually water your plants. Whether you’re busy at work or at life, this can be a step that is forgotten or deliberately pushed away, thus affecting the quality of your plants.
Thanks to the layers in your no-dig garden, water is naturally absorbed in the materials. This means you can go longer between watering as the moisture will slowly seep into the ground.
More ground material also means more shade. It will keep shallow roots better protected from the hot sun, meaning your plants will naturally need less water from you.
What do you need for a no-dig garden?
To start with, you need an understanding of the ecosystem of your soil. Knowing that a lot is going on underneath the soil will help you understand how everything is connected.
Dirt is alive with nutrients, bacteria, and insects. The soil will naturally form its own ecosystem, and you want to respect that it knows how to survive on its own.
Another element you need for a successful no-dig garden is an understanding of the importance of layers. To get the best benefits you really need to add compost and bark mulch on top of your existing soil every spring.
Together, these layers work in harmony and will provide the best results for your garden.
For those who hate the task of digging their garden each spring, take heed. It is no longer necessary. With the no-dig method, you can have a vibrant garden that is rich in nutrients and full of incredibly important micro-organisms.