Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I dig no dig

I dream of creeping buttercup and bindweed roots after a session at the allotment.  Even as I sleep, I know they are poking their snaky tendrils out into my newly dug soil, filling my blank canvas with exuberant growth of the wrong sort, the minute my back is turned.

So this year I'm experimenting.  Instead of trying (and failing) to deal with weeds by digging, I'm going to try Charles Dowding's 'no dig' method.  This involves covering areas with biodegradable materials (e.g. cardboard) to prevent light reaching the soil, and then topping them with a mulch of organic matter  thereby providing a rich, friable growing media which is ready for planting. Flower growers I know who've adopted it have reported that it was much more effective than traditional digging in keeping perennial weeds at bay, and in reducing the general weed population.

It all sounds like a very good plan, except that evil weeds like bramble, bindweed and dock will have to be tackled before cardboard can go down as their roots are so indestructible, that, like post-holocaust cockroaches, they'll just keep on keeping on.  But, according to Charles Dowding's website, a couple of inches of organic matter on top of the soil should be enough to see off creeping buttercup (one of my worst enemies at the allotment), and perhaps even the grass.

I've saved lots of the Christmas cardboard delivery boxes, all stomped flat, in my garage for the purpose. The next job is to ferry them down to the allotment, lay them down on the soil, and then weigh them down either with mulch or odd bricks to stop them becoming airborne in the current windy conditions.

The local garden centre is currently selling off last year's compost at a large discount, so I may go and invest in some of that to boost my home-made supply to provide a sufficient quantity of mulch.  Along with visiting horse-lodging establishments to relieve them of some of their manure…  I sense a smelly January coming on!

Have you tried gardening using similar methods?  What  were the results?


  1. Yes, I did this last year. Along the greenhouse I had a large weedy and wet spot. I put flattened cardboard boxes on the soil, compost from my compostheap on top of it and it worked......anyway much better than digging. I certainly will use this method again. By the way I know this method from an English blog, I think it was the blog 'The No Dig Gardener' of Roger Brook.

    1. That's good to hear Janneke - people keep telling me what a good system it is, so am very interested in seeing how it works out over the next growing year. Just that bindweed to eradicate somehow, but I hope no-dig will fix most of the other nasties - think I've already seen off most of the brambles in the main beds. Thanks for the book tip too - will look out for it.