This week began with the Autumn Equinox, the festival of Mabon, which starts on September 21st
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.
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.
On Monday 3rd July, I was interviewed by Jen Gale about my work, in particular about the ethical aspects of it. This was the first interview for her new series entitled “Meet the Changemaker”. All of these interviews will be uploaded so anyone can view for free onto Jen’s You Tube channel Jen Gale – Ethical Business Coach,
I haven’t met Jen in real life yet, but have ‘known’ her for some time via her Facebook Groups (Make Do and Mend, #MakingGood) and her blog My Make Do and Mend Life
Jen’s blog started when her family decided to spend a year buying nothing new and has developed into a supportive network of likeminded people and her new business. I’ve always enjoyed being resourceful and have found the blog and Facebook group full of inspiration for new ideas.
Online communities can be a great resource for sharing tips and mutual support in a non judgemental way – this is about doing what you can in the circumstances you are in yourself, not trying to be some kind of super-eco-person (although that is fine too!), something I feel very strongly about. Whatever you do, whether it is going off grid or making a couple of meals a week from mostly homegrown ingredients, or darning a hole in a jumper, is worthwhile.
These ideas of course fit closely with growing your own, gardeners are usually a very resourceful bunch, making what they need from what they have saved up ‘just in case’.
This interview was via an app on my phone, which I just propped up against my computer without thinking about how it might look, so the angle is rather strange!
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.
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:
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.
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.
It’s the way nature does it 🙂
Microorganisms! Pure & simple
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.
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,
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 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?