No-Dig Gardening

Bumblebee on Buddleia

Why “No-Dig” is Better For the Planet and the Gardener 

“Soil holds 3 times as much carbon as the atmosphere, it reduces the risk of flooding by absorbing water, it is a wildlife habitat, and it delivers 95% of global food supplies.

“Unfortunately, it is a limited resource under pressure from climate change, population growth, urban development, waste, pollution, and the demand for more (and cheaper) food.  In England over half of the soil carbon is contained within the top 30cm of the soil. However where permanent pasture has been ploughed and converted to arable or temporary grasslands the carbon is released as carbon dioxide.  In England most arable soils have already lost about 40 to 60% of their organic carbon.” The state of the environment: soil

What can we do as wildlife gardeners?

“Soil can act as an effective carbon sink, trapping carbon in the soil in our gardens involves thinking about two different things. Firstly, we need to think about how we can increase soil organic carbon levels. We can add carbon to the soil by:

Adding ‘green’ organic matter. (Such as mulches, and chopped and dropped cover crops/ green manures.)

Making use of ‘brown’ organic matter. (Such as compost or manures.)

Incorporating ‘black’ organic matter. (Biochar)

“Secondly, we need to think about how we can reduce the amount of carbon lost from the soil ecosystem. We can do this by adopting ‘no-dig’ and organic gardening approaches. A no-dig approach can help avoid areas of bare soil that will lose carbon more quickly. It can minimise issues with compaction and erosion. And it can boost bacterial and fungal systems, ensuring a healthy soil biota that helps keep carbon trapped there.

“No-dig gardening is simply a method of creating and maintaining growing areas in a garden without extensive digging of the plots. In no-dig gardening, growing areas are created by layering organic material on top of the existing soil, and maintained by means of sheet mulching. The soil beneath is left as undisturbed as possible, allowing the natural soil ecosystem to thrive.” no-dig gardening

This is a good introduction to “no-dig gardening” setting out the following benefits:

~The soil ecosystem is able to thrive. Fungal and bacterial networks remain unbroken. Other micro-organisms and soil fauna like earth worms are left to do their job.

~The soil is better able to retain moisture for water-wise gardening, and less likely to suffer nutrient depletion due to run-off and erosion.

~Heavy clay soils, sandy soils and other potentially troublesome soil types are naturally improved over time by this gardening system, as organic matter is added. (Lessening problems such as compaction and generally improving soil texture and fertility.)

~The natural cycle of growth, death, decay and regrowth is used to complete the nutrient cycle and create a closed loop, so an organic garden can be maintained effectively and even improved over time and waste is kept to a minimum.

~No-dig gardening saves a gardener a lot of backbreaking work, and makes it easier to maintain an organic gardening system from a human perspective.

~There is evidence to suggest that no-dig gardening can increase yield when compared to more traditional gardening practice.

Charles Dowding publications, all good on “No-Dig”