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No Dig Gardening explained

Do not disturb.  Probably not an approach to gardening that immediately comes to mind - but in many ways, doing nothing is actually better for the fertility of your soil.  By preserving the "soil food web" and letting the fungi, bacteria and multitude of soil microbes be...your plants will thrive.   

There are several problems with heavily tilling your soil.  First, it's a lot of work.  Second,  it quickly depletes available nutrients such as nitrogen - requiring the gardener to continually add them back in - which isn't sustainable.  Also, tilling the soil releases carbon into the atmosphere - contributing to climate change.  There's a better way.

What does No Dig Gardening look like?  Here's a quick example:
As you can see, to plant seeds, you simply poke holes into the compost (in this case, to plant fava bean seeds).  Roots from the prior season's plants are left in the ground (cutting off stems right at ground level), providing the soil food web with more organic material and pathways for new roots to follow.  

Growing seedlings under a grow lamp or in a greenhouse increases the probability that the young plants will thrive without the pressure of plant predators.  No Dig enables a quick transition into the garden environment by providing young seedlings a comfortable new home in nutrient rich compost.  Here's a simple example:


What do you need for No Dig Gardening?  Lots of compost!  Start by thinking of your garden bed as a big pan of lasagne.  At the start of each season, add a healthy layer of compost directly on top of the bed.  An added benefit: the new layer will make it very difficult for weeds to grow - and ones that do will be easier to pull.

For many reasons, adopting No Dig techniques in your garden just makes sense.  For more information, here are a few resources:
  1. Here's a link to the history of No Dig Gardening on Wikipedia
  2. View this Charles Dowding video
  3. Read this book on soil biology - Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels
  4. Watch this documentary - Kiss the Ground



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