No Dig Gardening: Preparing the Soil Without Digging Up
No-Dig" or "No-Till" is a soil-friendly method from permaculture. Gardeners deliberately refrain from digging up the soil. Why you should not dig up your garden soil and what advantages the no-dig method has, you will learn in this article. In addition, there are some exceptions in which it can be useful to dig up the garden soil.
This article contains:
Advantages of No-Dig:
- Promotion and activation of soil life
- Improvement of the soil structure and protection of the soil structure
- Suppression of weeds
- Higher yields
- Less physical work and time
- With heavy soils
- With deep soil compaction (Hollanders)
No-dig method: Gardening with nature
The Japanese microbiologist and farmer Masanobu Fukuoka developed the philosophy of "do-nothing agriculture". This is based on the assumption that nature can sustain itself without any human intervention. All man has to do is leave nature to its own devices. After years of observing his garden, he developed several permaculture methods. The No-Dig method is based on Fukuoka's concept of natural and ecological agriculture with natural self-regulating cycles. The Englishman Charles Dowding developed, applied and spread the No-Till method in our latitudes.
Soil-friendly alternative to digging
With little investment of time and resources, anyone can grow and harvest fruits and vegetables in their own garden. The goal is to make the existing vegetation usable again and to create new beds in a way that is gentle on the soil. Even areas in your garden with moderate to poor soil quality or contamination can be "revitalized" in this way. In addition, this method is also suitable for areas where digging is not possible, such as a meadow with dense turf or a lawn.
No-dig garden: Create no dig beds without digging up
Gardening without digging for a fertile soil
Digging up the garden soil is a widespread practice, but unfortunately it has one very big disadvantage: Digging over destroys the natural layering of the soil and upsets its structure. Soil conservation tillage preserves soil structure and stratification and keeps the delicate balance in the soil intact. This approach follows the principles of regenerative agriculture and focuses on working in a way that is gentle on the soil, thus preserving and promoting soil fertility and soil life.
Advantages of the No-Dig Method
Promotion of soil life and biological activity
With sheet mulching, you provide a veritable feast for the microcosm in the soil. Biological activity increases because all the organic material is converted.
Protection of the soil structure and improvement of the soil structure
The sensitive soil structure is preserved and the biological activity increases. A loose crumb structure is created through humus build-up and decomposition. The improved soil structure in turn has a positive effect on the water and nutrient holding capacity and thus on the crops.
Suppression of weeds
By piling up new organic matter, the existing vegetation is cut off from the light and dies. In addition, virtually nothing grows through the first layer of cardboard. Only from the sides the wild weeds could settle on the surface or the seeds reach the new surface by the wind.
Due to improved soil conditions, the plants find good growing conditions. In addition, high biological activity leads to increased heat formation in the soil, which benefits plant growth in the spring.
No more digging: Less physical work & effort
With the no-dig method, you avoid the strenuous and time-consuming digging. This not only gives you more time for other things, but is also easy on the back. No matter where - on the balcony or in the garden, on good or bad soil. This method allows you to place a bed anywhere. And with hardly any expenditure of time, money or effort.
No-dig beds are sustainable and good for the environment in many ways. In addition to maintaining soil health, you can also reuse any garden waste that is generated and put it back into the cycle.
Create no-dig/lasagna beds: Sheet Mulching Guide
Digging around can also be useful
For heavy soils
Heavy clay or loam soils are characterized by a very fine soil structure with many small pores. The problem here is that the water is fixed in the small pores and is not available to plants. For this, the crumb structure must become more coarse-pored. In this case, one-time digging can be useful when planting. The best time is in late autumn before the first soil frosts. The soil can benefit from the frosts: During frost heave, existing soil aggregates are broken up by the frozen water, creating more air voids. This creates a comparatively loose, fine-textured bed. In very heavy soils, it may be worthwhile to add a little sand to the top layer that has been dug over. After digging, the bed should not lie open. Otherwise, weeds will grow and the soil will be at risk of erosion and silting. To further improve the soil structure and so that the soil is not so bare, you can now create a lasagna bed on top of it.
For deep soil compaction
Soil compaction can have the most diverse causes: heavy machinery (plow bottom), silting due to insufficient soil structure, etc.
In the case of severe soil compaction, this horizon acts like a blockade. Plant roots cannot continue to grow here and this becomes a problem especially for deep-rooted crops. Here, the compaction horizon can only be broken up by digging.
We wish you success in creating your own lasagna bed and a bountiful harvest. If you have any questions or suggestions about sheet mulching, feel free to write to us at [email protected].
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Titelbild - Copyright CC BY-ND 2.0 by Ryan