It shouldn’t happen to a gardener!

The best laid plans do not always come to fruition! Gardening is a great leveller. Whether you are growing on an allotment, in a window box  or own a huge private estate, nature always has the upper hand – and that is exactly as it should be.

Walking in a winter wonderland … in March… again!

Every Monday I pour my morning coffee and plan my week. Last week was so busy with talks, writing, a course day on Saturday; there was little time for gardening at home, so I scheduled Sunday as a whole day of gardening at home.

Top 10 FAQ - How to start No Dig Gardening in the UK

Top 10 FAQ – How to start your No Dig Garden

We are often asked to start no dig gardens and so Charles, the admin team of our Facebook group and I have come up with the Top Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions.

If we haven’t covered your questions, please ask them in the comments here (or on the Facebook group if you are a member) and we will answer them as soon as we can.

There’s a lot more information in our (Award Winning!!) book, No Dig Organic Home and Garden, in Charles’ other books, on his website and his You Tube Channel.

No Dig Allotment November Update

My allotment has been quite neglected recently. All of my travels (Yorkshire for a wedding, then Thailand and Laos, with a work trip to Ireland just 2 days after returning), my work and autumnal weather suddenly arriving after a mild sunny spell – quite a shock after Thailand for me! – has meant that I am not quite where I would like to be for November 22nd. Nevermind though, it will all get done and I have had a lovely time.

(Almost!) last plantings of the year

This is the eighth in my series of blog posts, explaining how to grow vegetables and herbs which can be sown now to see you through the winter and spring – no hungry gap in 2018!
I have added the category No Hungry Gap, so you can find all of the blogs easily using the search facility.

Time to plant

This is the sixth in my series of blog posts, explaining how to grow vegetables and herbs which can be sown now to see you through the winter and spring – no hungry gap in 2018!
I have added the category No Hungry Gap, so you can find all of the blogs easily using the search facility.

Planning the next stages for an abundant polytunnel

This is the fourth in my series of blog posts, explaining how to grow vegetables and herbs which can be sown now to see you through the winter and spring – no hungry gap in 2018!
I have added the category No Hungry Gap, so you can find all of the blogs easily using the search facility.

Growing for winter harvests: what to sow and when!

Now is the time to start planning and sowing for late autumn, winter and spring harvests, no hungry gap in 2018! Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my sowing, planting, soil preparation and other seasonal plans for growing under cover and outside.

Late summer polytunnel

It is the first day of September and autumn has been in the air now for a few weeks, earlier than usual here in Somerset. The garden is full of vegetables, fruit and flowers, bright with sunflowers and snapdragons, but now when I rise at 5 am the sky is still dark and the curtains remain drawn until almost 6 o’clock. I have ordered firewood…

Why grow No Dig?

My first real introduction to no dig gardening was when I started working with Charles in his market garden at Lower Farm nine years or so ago. He lived in a nearby village, so I had heard of Charles and his methods (local shops sold his mixed salad leaves too) and borrowed his book Organic Gardening, the Natural No Dig Way from the library but didn’t see it in action until I visited his farm for the job interview – it looked amazing! Learning about Charles’ method through experiencing it, his way of working with the soil and nature felt natural and  I was soon wanting to apply the methods to my allotment and garden.

July third week
Lower Farm

For myself, no dig enabled me to create a really productive allotment and home garden which was very easy to maintain, especially important at that time as I was looking after young children as a lone working parent so anything that saved time was really useful! (I still am a single mum, but my youngest is now almost 18). Growing all that food really helped my budget too. I’ve always used organic methods, so no dig fits with my desire to work with and support nature.

Recently I asked members of our no dig Facebook group why they decided to garden using no dig methods. There are many different reasons: wanting to save time, a deeper connection with nature, physical mobility, it makes sense…. Here are some of the replies:

Ch14GTP mulching rhubarb, globe artichoke, kale, 6 weeks after first spread on pasture
Charles making a no dig bed at Homeacres

Flexibility as to growing all year and wide period in which I can apply compost. Labour saving. To fit with my busy life!

Growing healthy biodiverse soil, which means healthy nutrient rich plants and healthy people.

I was convinced by the arguments for preserving and building soil structure rather than starting over again every year. It goes hand in hand with the attraction of growing perennial vegetables.

Initially it was the labour saving element as we took on a plot on pasture with a 3&1 year old in tow!! When I looked into the benefits of maintaining the soil diversity etc there was an “aha!” Moment as it aligned with many of our other values about nature and not messing about with stuff for the sake of it.

Bad back = no digging for me. It’s easier to prepare, plant and manage. Almost always have something edible growing in the food garden (mostly because we changed our attitude to what we could achieve and also added a very small no-dig polytunnel

It was the avoidance of the annual destruction of soil structure that initially attracted me, the fact that after digging, soil needed to re-establish itself before it became an efficient growing medium.

Lower Farm

Absolutely building soil structure and protecting soil flora and fauna was the initial impetus. Huge plus is that my site remains unwaterlogged, unlike my neighbouring allotments, throughout the winter!

Likewise on my heavy clay, helps to maintain soil structure.

Simplicity! Plus all the other benefits of keeping soil structure good and looking after nature.

Firstly it was the thought of not having to dig (for my back’s sake) and the time saved in not doing so. Then learnt about benefits to soil health. And then the bonus of time to keep on top of weeds and pests. Plus with Charles’ books the organisation factor of timing and spacing.

Labour saving initially but I’ve seen a great improvement in the soil structure ,would never go back to digging now

Thanks for adding me to this lively and friendly group 🙂 The thing that lured me into No Dig was the promise of a way of making organic food production more productive than conventional farming.

Poor health and a desperate desire to create a new garden nevertheless. More recently an opportunity to show people, via my front garden on a housing trust estate that no dig is possible and productive.

Arthritis!

It’s the way nature does it 🙂

Microorganisms! Pure & simple

Hazelrown Wood’s terraced no dig market garden

Weed suppressant with vibrant growth, without the use of petrochemical fuelled machinery. Also potential of a viable business which we now have!
It’s a gentler more graceful way to approach the land. Leaving soil untouched, undisturbed and planting into that life is a respectful way to engage with natures power, beauty and poetry.

Coming from a science background it makes perfect sense if you want a high quality product.

Less weeding and no tilling!!!

When does ‘Mother Nature’ regularly turn the soil upside down. destroying it’s structure and killing many of its inhabitants?

Had been on the allotment list for 3 years and in the meantime did my back in (not gardening) and still wanted to take up the allotment when I got to the top of the list. No-dig is still a lot of work to get established but not such a strain on the old back. It also allows you to potter instead of labour. Plus of course all the benefits of better food.

It promotes healthy soils and in return we benefit in many different ways. it is also sustainable.

Soil health😃

Mine was researching how to improve my knowledge and increase my yields. It’s been a learning journey, from just starting to garden, to understanding how to garden. I have become so much more aware of the full growing cycle and what it represents,

No dig makes you feel great!

Our group is called No Dig Gardening – Undug. There’s a link to it in the sidebar, under no dig links.

Why did you start adopting no dig methods? If you are not no dig, what most appeals to you about it?

 

 

Somerset Garden Day

Somerset Garden Day is happening today! I think this is a brilliant idea – of course I don’t need much encouragement to spend time in my garden, but this day is a bit different.

I am writing this in Kent, far from my own garden in Bruton, in the barn of a beautiful flower farm, whilst Charles gives a talk on No Dig gardening. Charles and I were intrigued when we first heard about the idea of Somerset Garden Day and were asked for our help launching the project. We are always keen to help promote ideas that encourage people to enjoy gardens and were delighted to help enthuse people to spend time enjoying their gardens.

The idea of Garden Day is to down tools and spend time celebrating your garden, whatever the size (even a window box!), spending quality time relaxing and consciously taking pleasure from your outdoor space, in whatever way feels good for you. You can spend all day, or just half an hour, enjoying a garden, experiencing the outdoor space and the season with all of your senses.

Garden Day is accessible to everyone – any age, any size of garden. If you have no garden, then spend some time visiting one of the many amazing gardens we have in Somerset – community  gardens, private gardens that are open to the public, National Trust properties, wild spaces, riversides, the coast, country walks: pack a picnic, take family and friends, or enjoy some outdoor solitude, whatever appeals to you!

I love the idea because I am absolutely rubbish at just sitting in and enjoying my garden, especially at this time of year when there is so much to do! It gives an opportunity to look at my garden and allotment from a different perspective, as a space to relax and socialise as well as work and grow food. At first I thought that the date was a bit too early in the year – as a veg grower, most of the plantings are quite small especially as it is just after the (hopefully!) last frost date for Somerset. But as I thought more about it, and looked at everything emerging in my garden last week – and the gardens I have visited this weekend in Sussex and Kent – I came to realise what a great time of year it is to encourage people to be outside and get pleasure from the warmer temperatures, let the spring sunlight clear away winter cobwebs, enjoy the pleasure of gorgeous early flowers and the anticipation of everything that is in bud, about to unfurl into summer glory.

As I am not at home, I’m going to make some time to just sit and enjoy my garden next week – and today, we will be celebrating gardens here in Kent, having lunch outside in the sunshine with the course participants in this lovely flower farm. Yesterday I spent time relaxing at Sissinghurst, enjoying the stunning garden there, where many of these photos are from (not Somerset I know, but this is where I am!)

It isn’t too late to enjoy Somerset Garden Day wherever you are, with an impromptu al fresco lunch or supper, invite neighbours round for an early evening glass of wine, search for insects with children, take a comfy chair outside and relax with a book – how will you celebrate your garden?

 

Clearing and planting

I’ve mostly been concentrating on my at home garden, so it was a real pleasure to be able to spend some time at my allotment, getting ready for everything that will be planted there over the next week or so.

I’d let the brassicas go to flower for the wildlife, but now needed most of the space for new plantings.

At the back, you can see the untidy part of my plot – cloche hoops and sticks waiting in a heap on top of the plastic mulch* to be put to use.

(*the plastic mulch is there to kill off invasive horseradish, which was trying to take over. It will be there all year.)

Bees and other beneficial insects are loving the brassica flowers. Small birds are feeding on the many insects flying about there. Some of the stems are covered in aphids, useful food for all kinds of beneficial predators – fine on these as they are going to be composted soon but I wouldn’t be quite as happy if they were on my food crops.

Most of the plants needed removing; I left just some flowering kale (seen above in the photo with the blue sky).

Even though it has been so dry for weeks, these mulched beds have retained moisture so I was able to simply pull out the large plants. Using my very sharp copper spade*, I chopped them into 6 inch pieces, then added them to the compost heap. Allowing the plants to flower has another advantage – it helps to create more material for compost making. To the heap I also added ripped up cardboard and chopped comfrey leaves; there’s a lot of comfrey in the hedgerows at this site.

(* the spade has an alloy so it is really bronze)


After clearing, I walked over the bed to level it off and break down any lumps of composted manure that remained, then using my dibber made holes for the module sown peas. The moisture conserving properties of the mulch made the job easy, even though we have had the driest April here for 30 odd years. It was more difficult where the brassicas had been, as one would expect.

I had meant to add a picture of the module peas but forgot to put it in my media files before going away – I am in Sussex, at Sarah Raven’s where Charles is giving a day course. This is a photo of my view as I type!

IMG_0367

Back on the allotment, here are the peas after planting. I also planted module sown beetroot and spring onions down the sides of the beds – you can just about see the small leaves.

The self sown borage is huge now and full of bees.

The allotment after clearing – the garlic in the foreground is looking a little yellow due to lack of rain. I am hoping there’ll be some on Monday; if not, I will water them.  It’s looking quite bare but will be full within 2-3 weeks! Most of the plants are ready to go out next week, I was holding them back a bit because of the cooler temperatures last week.

At home, I’ve been clearing much of the polytunnel too. It was looking quite jungly, rather lovely really with all of those flowers, but I need the space for the tomatoes.

After clearing I watered using a hose with the sprinkler attached, for a long time, avoiding the back of the tunnel where I have a store of compost and the apricot.  I avoid drenching that, preferring to water the soil.

You can see how some of the garlic has suffered from dryness and growing amongst large brassica plants, something to remember for next year. I’m hoping it will perk up after a few days.

I’ve left some kale, chard, dill and turnip greens for a final pick. I harvest the green seeds of the coriander before clearing, delicious sprinkled on hummus.

Harvests included calabrese, carrots, spring onions and cabbages.

Then the tomatoes went in, with the string placed at the bottom of the hole. This helps to secure the string, which is fastened to the crop bars. I’m using baler twine as I have a huge quantity of it. Each piece is reused for years, not biodegradable unfortunately but as I have some, it seems sensible to use it up.

These tomatoes are mostly much smaller than I would usually plant, late sowing (due to the Italian trip) and so planted from module to tunnel without being potted on. An interesting experiment!

I also harvested the scrapes from the elephant garlic. These have gone into the fridge, I’ll cook them on Monday.

Next week, the aubergines will be planted and soon, cucumbers and melons – also, the edible flower companions and basil soon, too. An exciting transformation from spring to summer.