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No Dig Questions


I am in the process of making a new shady border in clay soil. This is in a corner of my garden that has been largely covered in weed membrane for a year or so and I now have lots of plants ready for their new home. 

I was hoping to create the borders using a no dig method by putting down cardboard to smother weeds and then put compost and wood chip mulch on top. I don't really like the idea of a plastic weed membrane that won't rot away being there permanently but I'm prepared to have my mind changed.

I have a few questions:

1. Does this work with groundcover plants such as lamium? Does the cardboard prevent spreading?

2. When planting, do you plant on top of the cardboard or make a hole for the roots to go through? 

3. The only nice thing about this corner is that it has lots of snowdrops. How do I keep these or will they come back through? Should I remove the bulbs and replant on top of the cardboard?

Thank you - I have never done this before as you can tell! :smile:


  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    I don't understand why you need cardboard at all, to be honest. Ground cover plants tend to smother weeds, anyway, and Lamium is a determined spreader and smotherer. 

    Plants need soil and weeds are plants so any medium you put down for your plants will be good for weeds, too, cardboard or no cardboard. You could plant through holes in the cardboard but the weeds will grow in the mulch.

    Your snowdrops will be much better left as they are.

    Honestly, I think you are worrying too much. Plant into the soil and mulch with good composted muck. You can add wood chip if you like it. 
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,193
    edited March 2022
    Weed suppressant membrane in borders can be a nightmare to deal with if you subsequently want to change things and you can't really do things like mulching etc to improve the soil. Getting rid of the membrane is (IMO) a good thing👍

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,955
    If the ground's been covered for a long time, it can be sour and stale.
    The best thing to do before planting anything, is to add a load of manure. Then just plant directly into the bed, using suitable plants of course. Clay is one of the best mediums to grow in, but often needs improved to get the best from it, The organic matter will do that. 
    You can then add a mulch of compost or similar to suppress any weeds until plants spread. There's no need to do anything else really, other than adding some compost as a top mulch now and again.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • B3B3 Posts: 26,486
    edited March 2022
    I wouldn't call my efforts on heavy clay a no dig method, I'm just too lazy to dig. I jiggle the top inch or so of soil and pull out any weeds that offend. I empty spent compost wherever there's a gap. It works for me.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • so.phieso.phie Posts: 20
    Thank you everyone.

    That's one of my main reasons for wanting to do no dig, as I'm just not strong enough to turn over the whole area. It sounds like I need to get some manure and compost in!
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,955
    The 'digging over' thing is now a very outdated concept, and completely unnecessary.
    The only time you would dig, or loosen up soil, would be if you'd had building work or similar, and the ground had been very compacted.
    Even then, adding manure etc will bear dividends very quickly. I've done it many times :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • B3B3 Posts: 26,486
    Just don't walk on it if it's wet. But if you have to, then loosen up the soil where you've trodden.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    There's still a lot to be said for digging if your soil IS compacted. My 'garden' used to be grazing land that became partially flooded each winter. The ground was solid and pretty lifeless. Digging in muck and grit has transformed it and it is full of worms and nutrients. There weren't any worms to 'take down' organic matter.

    There's no single approach,  you need to match your method to your conditions.
  • bertrand-mabelbertrand-mabel Posts: 2,527
    We are on clay and it doesn't matter what we do we still try something else.
    Cardboard over winter to suppress weeds...doesn't work, old carpets..the same, putting our compost adds to the nutrients but still needs weeding in the Spring.
    Over 40 years here in clay soil with our composting added every year....still a clay soil!!!
  • To give you some ideas..
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