With humankind making strides in the agricultural sector, people have questioned conventional farming methods as new and more effective methods to evolve. One such method for organic farming is the No-Dig farming method.
Proposed by Charles Dowding around the 80s, this method avoids disturbing the soil by tilling and relies on soil’s microbes to carry compost to the plant’s roots. In this piece, we will provide you with deep insights into organic no-dig gardening.
What is No Dig Gardening?
Gardening can be fun, but not everyone wants to do tedious tasks associated with it, such as digging, which often leads to back pain and blisters.
On the contrary, no-dig gardening takes us back to nature and minimizes the use of forks and spaces. The key is to cause no disturbance in the soil and allow microbes to do their work.
Soil has a natural layer for plants to thrive. When a plant dies, various fungi try to concoct the dead plant matter by latching its surface.
This causes the plant matter to be converted into humus or compost with the help of some microbes. Then, the creatures such as earthworms/beetles, which live in the sub-surface, take the humus formed to a deeper level causing it to be absorbed by the plant’s roots and enriching them with minerals.
This facilitates a well-aerated environment which allows higher rainwater intake.
Why No Dig Gardening?
Not only is no-dig gardening primarily self-reliant, but it is also a way for us to give back to nature. Various reforms have been made to develop sustainable and planet-friendly agriculture.
Since we are keeping the carbon in the soil, erosion is less likely. It also helps the soil tell up water, thus liberating us from having to water it often. Tilling your garden also has some downsides, such as hampering the population of helpful microbes and bringing out weed seedlings to a surface level, causing problems when they sprout.
Contrary to this, the no-dig method brings benefits like:
- Increased productivity
- Fewer weeds
- Reduction of manual labor
- Timely exposure of compost to seedlings also increases its nutritional concentration.
- It also eliminates the usage of the rototiller.
- Since the bed is always ready to plant, it saves time to prepare for a new one.
- Less quantity of fertilizer required.
- Microorganisms can thrive in an unimpeded environment, thanks to no-dig gardening. Such microbes are perhaps the most effective for improving your garden’s soil composition.
- Digging may turn out to be bad for those who are prone to back problems. Eliminating steps like digging or tilling may help older gardeners to work at a better comfort level. One can also raise the height of beds as per their convenience.
- Since the soil is mainly covered by mulch or plants, there’s less probability of erosion.
- Rototillers endeavor to disturb the lives of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and earthworms. Although these soil ecosystems in organic gardens can recover before the season ends, no-dig gardening ensures that life in the soil continues unabated.
- No-dig gardening requires the usage of mulch and compost in large quantities. Unless you have the resources to produce them, you might fall short on the scale limitation.
- No-dig gardening stresses the necessity of keeping people and animals out of the beds. In specific garden plots, this can be difficult to avoid. Consider a raised bed if this is your concern.
- If you live in a colder climate, you might invite slugs into your garden, common when using a stable layer of decomposing grass.
Introduction to No-Dig Gardening Raised Beds
Set Up Your Bed in a Well-Lit Area
All vegetables need sunlight to flourish. Keep in mind to set up your bed in an area where at least six hours of daylight is available per day. Both annual rotating crops and perennial root crops can benefit from this.
Set Up a Weed Barrier
When making a no-dig garden, always use cardboard or a newspaper as the first layer. They will help the microbes in their function and also act as weed barriers after breaking down.
Nitrogen is a component of the chlorophyll molecule that grants plants their green hue and is involved in photosynthesis, producing food for the plant.
The lack of nitrogen causes the plant to turn yellow. Adding a layer of pea straw will provide nitrogen which will aid in the better functioning of the microorganisms. Make sure you do not use hay as it contains many seeds that may germinate in your garden.
Figure Out What Soil Mixture Works Best For You
Mix some soil from an older bed along with manure, fish blood, bone powder and spread it about an inch higher onto the surface.
One may also add lime if the crops need alkaline soil. Furthermore, it is also suggested that you slice the last layer, which is mulched for weed control.
Planting and Maintenance
Plant seedlings at a uniform distance from each other using a trowel. Keep refreshing the nitrogen layer every once in a while for it to stay fresh.
How to Maintain a No Dig Garden?
- Apply one layer of compost annually, preferably during fall or late winters.
- Make sure you don’t grow the same crops in the very same spot simultaneously.
- Cultivate nitrogen-fixing plants such as beans and peanuts after you have grown some heavy takers like potatoes.
- Plant one annual cover crop such as oats annually to maintain soil structure and prevent erosion.
- The cover crop will continue to grow until the cold weather kills it. In the spring, before it goes to seed, cut it at ground level and then leave the debris in the garden as mulch or compost it.
No-dig gardening is all about the natural way of gardening and feeding the soil life and then enabling the soil to feed and nourish the plants.
For no-dig gardening, it is essential to have a natural system that’s sustainable and ideal for home gardening. To perform this gardening with no abundance and weed problems, here are some pro tips for you to consider:
1. Water and Leave the Weeds As They are
Don’t clear the land on which you are going to start the garden on. If you see any weeds, let them be as they are.
Weeds are going to be a part of your organic matter. They are going to be the roots as they die back in the soil. If your weeds seem to be tall, cut them a bit and water them well.
2. Open and Feed the Soil
This process does not involve any digging or turning, but sometimes it’s essential to open up the soil with a garden fork without turning or changing the structure too much.
This allows the soil to lift and gather some air. You can also add up to the process by feeding your soil just the right amount of soil food containing compost and leafy green material.