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Home & Garden Everything you need to know about no dig gardening – 2020's biggest garden trend

13:05  12 february  2020
13:05  12 february  2020 Source:   housebeautiful.co.uk

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Charles at his no dig garden, Homeacres Somerset UK Charles at his no dig garden, Homeacres Somerset UK No dig gardening, a method used in organic gardening, is by no means new, but it just happens to be one of 2020's biggest garden trends.

Charles Dowding, known as the 'guru of no dig', has been an advocate of the no dig garden method since he first started growing vegetables back in 1981. In fact, much of his career has been dedicated to teaching others about the approach, both in the form of his books and successful YouTube channel.

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What is no dig gardening?

'No dig gardening is very simple. Effectively, it's where you don't use a fork or spade to disturb or loosen the soil in any way,' Charles tells House Beautiful UK.

Woman planting. © Guido Mieth - Getty Images Woman planting. It's a method of cultivation that aims for minimal disturbance of the soil — and can be adopted by anyone. 'Because it's such a healthy way of growing and the soil health stays so good from not being disturbed, you get a stronger growth of your plants. You need less fertilisers, less pesticides, very few slug pellets. It ticks so many other boxes too, such as keeping your soil moist,' explains Charles.

No dig is inspired by the outdoors

No dig is inspired by the simplicity of nature. 'If you look around you out the window and look at the things growing, most of it is undisturbed,' he explains. 'We focus on nutrients and fertilisers that feed our plants, without really looking at what the soil organisms are already doing, particularly when it comes to feeding the plants.'

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What You Need . No Dig Gardening . Nature' s way to garden . So there I was in my garden , trowel and hands covered in rich brown earth and making holes with gusto for planting and loving it. Trust me, this no - dig gardening way is beyond easy. Personally if I wanted to garden all day I would, but

Organic gardening © Getty Organic gardening No dig is thinking about what is going on beneath the surface of the soil. The human eye might not be able to watch the many roots intertwine, but one of the key elements of no dig is to not disregard what we can't see. 'Some people call it the "wood wide web", which is an Internet under our feet and in the soil. It's releasing nutrients to plants,' says Charles.

Children's hand watering the natural little green plant. ecological concept. © Getty Children's hand watering the natural little green plant. ecological concept. 'That's when no dig really wins because you are leaving it. You've got that amazing life that is helping the plants to grow, and every time you stick a spade or fork in the soil and move it around, we're actually breaking and doing a lot of disruption. We don't see it. There are so many good things going on in the soil and we really don't want to harm it.'

When did no dig first start?

While many of us might be new to the concept of no dig, it has actually been around for decades. 'I pioneered it in the modern age, I guess you could say, but it has been around for a long time,' says Charles.

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Woman grows plants in the garden © Getty Woman grows plants in the garden 'I started doing it in 1982 when I was making flowerbeds by hand. I came across a book by Ruth Stout and she gave me insights. The problem was, her method of mulching the surface was with using hay and I literally copied that and then found I had lots of slugs eating my plants. That's when I realised you have to adapt the mulch material to the climate.

'Before her, there was a guy up in Cumbria called F.C. King who was doing it. But I'd say no dig was used in the 1920s or earlier. It's not revolutionary at all — it's just copying nature. It's working out how you can translate what is happening in nature to what is happening in the garden.'

a man sitting on a bench in a garden: Charles Dowding in his garden © Heather Edwards Charles Dowding in his garden It's also about being kind to the environment

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Man grows plants in the garden © Getty Man grows plants in the garden According to Charles, we should all be adopting a no dig approach to further our environmental efforts. 'It's so significantly better for the environment. Firstly for carbon, you're keeping carbon in the soil. There's less likelihood of erosion, the soil is more stable, you won't need to water it a lot as you are holding the moisture in there more, so it's less of a drain on resources,' he explains.

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'In the end you need less fertiliser and compost because you are activating soil life to be self-sufficient. It's really tapping into the natural processes and enhancing them, rather than flooding the garden with brought-in inputs. And, in the process, you save a lot of time.'

Woman grows plants in the garden © Getty Woman grows plants in the garden What about getting rid of weeds?

Even the toughest of weeds don't need to be pulled out by a metal spade, as Charles explains: 'Most weeds die when they are deprived of light. You don't need to dig your weeds out — all you need to do is smother them because no plant can grow in darkness. Cardboard is amazing to kill the weeds. One piece of cardboard overlapped on the edges with a bit of compost on top will do a great job. It's simple and quick.'

a sign hanging from a tree: No Dig sign in the vegetable garden at RHS Wisley © Clare Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo No Dig sign in the vegetable garden at RHS Wisley How can you start a no dig garden?

If you're keen to adopt your own no dig approach, Charles tells us: 'A good starting point is that people really see the point of it. I wouldn't want people to adopt a method just because someone had told them to — they really have to believe in it and see how it makes sense.'

And, perhaps most importantly, it's all about keeping the process fun. 'Start small. There's the temptation to take on a lot, especially if you're a beginner. Just do a little bit — make a little bed, for example. Not taking on too much will mean you'll be in control and it will be fun. It's got to be fun,' he explains.

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  Everything you need to know about no dig gardening – 2020's biggest garden trend © Getty Looking to get started? Follow these simple steps...

1. Select a suitable place to create your no dig garden bed. You can build yours over existing soil, lawn, concrete or paved surfaces. Plus, you can also add temporary sides (such as old fence posts) to help keep compost-filled beds in shape. 

2. Mow down your lawn and remove any weeds if you need to.

3. Add a thick layer of organic matter (compost) to the area you want to create the garden, at around four inches (10cm) deep.

4. You can always lay down a sheet of cardboard first before the organic matter to help keep weeds away. Make sure you wet the cardboard to help it break down.

5. Next, layer manure on top. Use a watering can to keep it secure. Some people choose to use straw, but because of the UK climate, this can cause slugs to eat your plants. Charles suggests not using mulches of undecomposed organic matter.

6. Then, use your hands to create holes in the compost and insert your plants.


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