Wednesday, 17 March 2010

another side to 'no-dig' gardening!

I wrote about 'no-dig gardening' on Sunday.

I was talking bunkum! I don't dig the allotment - but there's someone else who's doing it for me.

No dig methods encourage worms and this improves fertility. Worm activity improves drainage and the lack of man's disturbance improves soil structure and makes the soil a better habitat for all invertebrates.

We have been organic gardeners on this site for ten years. So, no harmful residues rest in the soil and plenty of organic matter is constantly being added.

This improvement in the soil as a habitat benefits other creatures in the food chain as well as worms and their pals. Birds such as robins, thrushes, blackbirds and dunnocks need a healthy invertebrate population as a food source. In turn, they become food for sparrowhawks, their eggs and chicks food for magpies and squirrels.

Amphibians and reptiles too benefit from increased invertebrate populations. Frogs and toads are regular visitors and I long for the day when I disturb a grass snake. Allotments in nearby Newark have regular visits from grass snakes.

And then there are the mammals and my own digging garden assistant. The photo shows soil and leaf covered paths. Each autumn our council empties truck after truck of leaves onto the allotment car park. We squirrel them away and also use them to cover all paths in a thick mulch. In the photo you will also see some robust foxgloves (digitalis pupura) hunkered down, ready for a summer eruption of colour and insect food. But look carefully and you will see the tell-tale humps that are mole hills too. Moles tunnel beneath the soil and harvest the invertebrate life that falls into the tunnels. They push their excavated soil up in 'hills' of crumbly loam.

Of course, moles cause a lot of damage to lawns and can be a serious hazard to horses and riders when their hooves slip into hidden holes and tunnels. For mechanical harvesting too, the mole activity above ground adds unwonted soil and stones at harvest time.

But should I be bothered about mole damage on my little plot of land? Will I be able to live side-by-side with Mr Mole as he throws up untidy piles of soil in my geometric patch?? Will he damage my potatoes, uproot my sweetcorn and spoil my onions? Will his activity improve the biodiversity of my allotment?

Will we learn to rub along together? I do hope that the answer is yes! Watch this space!!

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