Improving Your SoilSeasonal Articles

No Dig 2013

Rhubarb Kale with January frostI do love a fresh start and the turn from Christmas to January and a New Year always puts a major spring in my step. I have to admit that my garden (in fact any project I’m involved in) always looks fabulous in my minds eye at but can be a little slow to materialise to its full splendour in real life. No matter, that’s what makes a new beginning so great. If we didn’t picture ourselves achieving wonderful things we’d never try anything, right?

2013 is no different but this time I have a little bit of a secret weapon. You’re going to hate me for this but thanks to the correct alignment of the stars and some other chance happenings I have the master vegetable gardener Dermot Carey of Lissadell as my own private gardener and tutor. Happy days! With Dermots help and advice I really will be achieving my dream garden this year and look forward to roaming perfectly productive rows of specimen salads and vibrant vegetables. But why do you care? Well, you may not but I’ll be documenting progress and will try and give you all the benefit of Dermot’s expertise. I’ll be writing a regular blog post of our garden with plenty of photos so hopefully we’ll all learn something along the way.

We’re also featuring an ‘Ask Dermot’ section on the website where you can put your questions to one of the most experienced growers in the country. Dermot also runs courses from time to time, we’ll keep you posted on times and locations of his masterclass workshops.

Jane Powers AuthorI’ll be going ‘No Dig’ as much as possible this year after a long conversation with Author and Sunday Times Gardening Correspondent Jane Powers. Make sure you check out Jane’s blog ‘One Bean Row‘ for a top up on her writing or if you really want to benefit from her wisdom and entertaining style you should get her beautiful book ‘The Living Garden‘. (As usual, it will come as no surprise to learn we stock it….)

Anyway – No Dig – why? Here’s what Jane says:

In a well-managed no-dig (or rarely dug) garden, the soil is alive and active. Its structure is elastic and springy, and more robust than that of a constantly dug soil. Organic matter must be ‘fed’ to it in order to maintain its vigour, especially if you are taking nutrients out of it in the form of food crops. The best way to do this is to place a layer of well rotted manure or garden compost on top, and let the worms dig it in. Within a few weeks or months – depending on their numbers and the time of year – they will plough all the material underground, in a far more efficient and effective manner than can ever be achieved by a man with a spade (or mechanical tiller). Worm populations may be small in some soils, but they increase when you add organic matter.

Here’s what I get from this:

  1. You don’t have to do much work.
  2. You add compost which will suppress the weeds and cut down on hoeing.
  3. You will increase your beneficial worm population who do the work for you.
  4. You don’t have to do much work.
  5. You don’t have to do much work.

What’s not to like? I’m struggling to find a reason not to do it so – I’m sold. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’re itching to plant something now don’t forget you can still plant garlic and rhubarb, two things we highly recommend. I’ve gone into more detail in the ‘What to do in January’ article next if you’d like more information and links to the shop.

Look, have a great Spring and enjoy the new year. The season will come around soon enough when there’s plenty to to in the garden but for now allow yourself to dream. If you’d like one of our new 2013 ‘Vegetable Seed Co.‘ catalogues drop us a line with your address and we’ll send one to you in the post, the full seed selection is available through the link above.

Enjoy your gardens, they’re your own personal paradise.

Andrew & Niall

  1. Helen

    I was wondering (as a complete novice!) how do those crops that need a finely tilled soil, like carrots, fair in a no dig garden? I have just got my first allotment and have been reading that rotavating might not be a good idea for those sites that have problems with certain weeds, so I’m thinking no-dig would be a good option for me.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Helen

      I haven’t actually tried no dig yet myself, this is my first year to give it a go. Jane tells me the soil (especially in raised beds) gets to such a good consistency that root crops will have no problem. Jane uses crass clippings through the year to keep the weeds at bay with heavier applications of compost in the Spring and Autumn which, with the action of the worms, helps to break down and improve the soil. I guess it depends what soil you start with in the first place. I’ll admit it sounds a bit too good to be true – can I get back to you in the Autumn?

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