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No dig gardening

Due to severe back problem what do fellow gardeners feel, know or can advise about "no dig " method of gardening. I have this autumn  gone down this route by nessessity and sown a green manure crop of broad beans and tares having first just being able to push hoe the raised beds to a depth of 4 inches. Crops are currently growing well. Any further advice will be greatly appreciated



  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 3,267

    I follow the no dig principle. Once the veg beds were made, which did involve double digging initially and soil sieving, I now put a layer of mulch or fretiliser on beds in the autumn, depending what is to be grown in the bed, this could be well rotted horse muck, leaf mould or a bed with nothing on. Worms have time to drag the compost into the soil and by spring, after snow, the beds are looking black and healthy. A fork over is sufficient to dig in anything left on the surface.    

    I've three veg beds and try to use a rotation system but space is limited and in practice this doesn't always go to plan as I stagger and repeat plant through the growing season.

    I hoe regularly and don't let weeds take a hold in the beds, weeds tend to come up easy pezzie on a good bed with mulch or muck providing enough room is left between plants to hoe.   

    Carrots and parsnips don't do well in no dig soil as they need depth to grow. I've a portable raised bed for mouli which I like to grow, it's about a ft deep and is refilled each year with used compost from spud bags freshed up with new stuff and can be moved around the beds. 

  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 3,267

    Forgot to say the beds are no more than 1mtre wide and never walked on so the soil isn't compact.  

  • Thanks everyone for comments and suggestions so far, very much appreciated. I look forward to any further comments, suggestions and advice.

  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,020

    I don't believe in digging either except to plant a new shrub or tree.  The veggie plot only ever gets hoed and mulched between plantings and hoed to keep it clear during the growing season.

    My newest gardening friend who's been helping me out since I developed back and foot problems advises covering newly cleared or mulched beds with cardboard for the winter as it keeps in warmth and stops weed seeds germinating so the soil is ready for swoing and planting earlier the following spring.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I have raised veg beds and I've never dug them in 9 years. I occasionally use a hoe, but more often a hand-fork just to turn over the surface and keep weeds down. Any day now we will unpack the compost heap and spread it around on the beds. In the spring I'll fork it in a bit more, ready for sowing and planting new crops.

    I have no problem at all with carrots and parsnips as the soil is always loose and not compacted. Next year's carrot section has already been identified and this is the one place I won't put fresh compost this autumn.

  • Matty2Matty2 Posts: 4,817

    I dig as little as possible (back problems) I was given to try one of those 'cultivators' that are like ahoe with 3or4 bent tines. It works really well. Also was given one of those that you pushh into ground and twist - great for long roooted weeds.

    I have just made a bed, first I put Roundup on area then I used the tine cultivator to get rid of the thatch and then have covered it with any compost I could get hold of. The soil is becoming manageable and was able to put plants into the mix with out problem

    I do veg in raised beds and just use a hand fork and the tine cultivator to keep the soil weedfree

  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 3,267

    I did something similar to obelixx, on one of the beds last yr.

    Read somewhere courgettes like well manured soil so covered one bed about this time with some rotted down manure, covered the ground with a weed membrain instead of cardboard, weighted down with stones and when it was time, cut crosses in the fabric and planted out the courgettes. They romped away all summer, no weeds or pests not even mildew on the leaves, just but slug pellets on the membrain so no slugs either.

    Best crop of courgettes I've ever had.

    It's now planted up with a new strawberry patch and has bienniels in. Didn't need to weed just turned it over with a hand fork.        

  • Hi, I have a bad back too and I use the same technique as Verdun.  I cover my growing area with horse muck (over a few weeks - I can't manage that much in one go) in Autumn and leave.  In the spring I use a 3 tine cultivator and that does the job.  I don't even dig trenches for my beans and I had LOADS this year.  

    I also grow all of my spuds in 30 ltr pots, covering them slowly as if they were being banked up.  With this method there are no volunteers left to grow next year or harbour blight through the winter.  My carrots are grown in 3 ft high raised beds and old (leaky) plastic oil drums that have had the bottom cut off.  I rotate with manure and brassicas as I can net them easily off the ground.

    I too am an advocate of membrane, but I heavily dose with Nemaslug in the autumn and in the spring.  It's a little bit more expensive but I've found it works a lot better than pellets and doesn't poison the local wildlife.

    The areas I can't cover with plastic I either hand weed or I leave it to the autumn and blast with glyphosate (eg bindweed in with my runners).

    My Mrs digs her plot (I mean she gets the kids to do it for her) and I think the no dig gives a better start to plants in the early spring.  All of the microbes that are killed by light are still there to break down the nutrients for your plants.


  • Am greatly encouraged by your varied advice and experiences and look forward to putting them into practice hopefully. Back op next month? Thanks and best regards to all correspondents.

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