No Dig Gardening

There’s More to This Than Just Getting Rid Of Your Shovel!

The idea of no dig gardening (yes, that’s a real thing) has been around for a long time. Sometime, closely following the Second World War, a book titled “Gardening Without Digging” was published in England promoting the concept that this method of gardening actually created a “food web” in the soil involving insects, worms and nutrients that created a healthier soil!

Up to that point, of course, people simply tilled, planted, tilled and planted. It’s only dirt after all. But, the historic “Great Dust Bowl” that ravaged this country in the early 1930’s was caused by simply tilling and planting! The drought that followed affected three-fourths of the United States and was a major factor in the Great Depression.

So, there must be a LOT more to this than just not having to dig in the soil. There is. In fact, no dig gardening actually mirrors Mother Nature in many, many ways.

It relies on rotting leaves and things, decomposing, insect poop and worms. Just exactly what Mother Nature likes!

But, unlike nature, it needs to have people to direct the elements and structure.

No dig is best created within raised structures and needs to be started correctly to be successful. You should layer the mulch and organic materials and allow them to “cook” together sort of like a good stew. This layering is sometimes called “lasagna gardening.” I’m getting hungry already.

Start with paper (old newspapers will do) and corrugated cardboard to about a half inch deep and soak that really well. Believe it or not, this will discourage weeds and grasses. Then, put in about four to six inches of hay and pat in an inch or so of good rotten manure (or fertilizer). Water that (don’t soak) then add six to eight inches of straw (it’s coarser than hay), another inch of fertilizer and top it all off with four inches or so of compost. You can start to plant seeds immediately or wait a few days. Keep it damp.

Use the chart above to get this thing going. Remember, Mother Nature doesn’t read, so it’s not critical that you get this exactly, mathematically right or in this particular order. Heck, it’s not even that important you get the same elements. What is important is that you start somewhere and you get closer to your mother!

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Updated: February 3, 2014 — 2:43 am

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