Sunday, 14 March 2010

No dig gardening

We have had our allotment for ten years, and our gardening practice has steadily developed over that time.

Take the preparation of the ground for potatoes as an example. Our soil is a light but fertile loam.

Ten years ago, I would dig the entire bed over, chucking in forkfuls of manure as I went.

Then I moved to adding the manure to the surface and then going over the ground, forking the manure in.

Two years ago we had moved to
our version of raised beds and I only dug over the compacted strips between beds and then mulched the entire bed with compost.

This year I have only mulched the entire bed with compost, leaving the soil undisturbed. The compacted strips between the beds have been mulched with leaves throughout the year, as some compensation to our worm population as we walk over their homes.

When we began, our potato harvest was often badly affected by slug damage. Perhaps the move from rich manure to compost enriched with manure has reduced this damage , or perhaps it is a judicious choice of varieties or - none of the above! Gardening is a complex business!

The reason for the move to mulching and not disturbing the soil is out of respect to our worm population. Worms excrete a gel as they make their burrows that is nature's own fertiliser. By not disturbing the sol and by mulching, we hope to increase the worm population, and therefore the fertility of the soil.

Of course, this is further evidence, if it were needed, that we are in the left field of organic gardening. I get the impression that we are introduced to new plot holders as the oddities!

One clear advantage of not digging is the time saved. I wrote yesterday about the slow start to the season. Two hours of barrowing compost and spreading saw our potato bed prepared and ready to go! I like that kind of gardening!

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