No dig gardens

28th April 2022

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The concept of no dig gardens (also known as Hugelkultur) has been pioneered by gardener and grower Charles Dowding since 1982 but has been gaining momentum since 2017 when he was featured on an episode of Gardener’s World . There has suddenly been a surge in popularity for this method of gardening thanks to social media influencers such as “Sprout Surrey”. No dig guru, Charles Dowding advocates that this method of creating flower beds and allotments is better for soil quality and plant health.

Social media gardener and influencer “Sprout Surrey” shows us how to create a no dig flower bed

Why switch to dig free gardening?

  • Mycorrhizal fungi stay intact so can help plant roots to find more nutrients and extract more moisture, because they are smaller than roots and can reach into tiny crevices.
  • You can be in the garden during wet weather because drainage is good: the soil’s structure has not been broken by tools or machinery, water runs through and mud does not stick to your boots!
  • It’s easy to resow or replant at any time of year, quickly and with no soil preparation needed. Simply twist out plants when you clear a preceding crop to leave most roots in the soil, remove any surface debris, and pop in the new seeds or plants.
  • Moisture is retained and is available to considerable depth, because there is no ‘shatter zone’ caused by cultivations.
  • Warmth is retained by soil in winter because deep-level warmth can rise, unhindered by damage from cultivations: my gardens have always been admired for their early harvests.
  • Carbon stays in the soil rather than being converted to CO2 by oxidation after cultivations.
Charles Dowding’s no dig garden in Somerset find out more

How to create a no dig bed

If you’re starting from scratch (or on top of a patch of grass) you will need to trim the greens as close to the ground as possible, then apply your layers of mulch (no more than 10cm deep). You can also start with a base layer of cardboard to thoroughly block out the sun. Autumn and spring are the best times of the year to mulch.

Here are some down sides to be aware of. dig gardening requires a large amount of compost especially in the first season when you need a bit more than usual. This in turn means that you need to invest in a sturdy wheelbarrow.

As with everything, this particular method isn’t for everyone and some people will strongly advocate against it in favour of the traditionally dug or tilled garden. Why not give it a go and decide what works best for you.

Find out more about reducing carbon through gardening click here