Ann's Farm Journal
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Bob and I hope you are all well.
Last Saturday we went on a ‘No-Gig’ course. Charles Dowding, the UK “No-Dig” guru, gave the course at his home and in his garden. Bob and I, along with a dozen others, were given an introductory talk on the reasoning behind Charles’s No-Dig methods. A tour around his garden. A venture into his polytunnels and greenhouses. A description of his methods of composting. A ‘show and tell’ of Charles’s own experiments. A lovely lunch and lots of warming coffee.
‘No-Dig’ clearly is what it says on the tin. It is a method by which the land is left. The land is not dug over. Good compost is placed over the land and the natural beings within the land do all the work. Worms and the little beasties in the soil pull and combine the new compost into the land. The seeds are sown and the plants are planted into this new top layer of compost. As the new plants grow (this can be for vegetables and for flowers), they are able to use all the goodness from the compost. More importantly those plants we do not want – WEEDS – will gradually be reduced by the lack of digging (this prevents the weed seeds being brought to the surface) and the fact that the top compost should prevent light to help the weed seeds grow. This is the basis of the No-Dig method.
A tour of Charles’s garden proved his point. There were very few if any weeds. Any weeds which do come through can clearly be seen and can be pulled out. There are times in the year when the naughty weeds will try and win. His method is a very light and loose sweep with a hoe or rake across the top of the bed. This will kill off the seedlings of the weeds before the plant takes hold.
The polytunnels and greenhouses all used the same methods as the outside beds. The temperature is slightly warmer inside, but they are more of a protection from winds and rain. All were full of lettuce, mustards and leaves.
Charles composts everything…..paper, cardboard, greens, woods, browns, coffee, everything. He adds wood shavings, manure and green waste which he buys in. He turns his compost only once, but does keep it for a long time before it is placed on top of his beds. Each bed gets a good layer of his compost during the winter season. Plenty of goodness going into his land. The proof is in the pudding and his overwintering vegetables looked amazing. They were large, green, healthy looking and looked amazing.
Charles, obviously, wants to prove that his method works. He uses a few of his beds as experimental comparison beds. He does have beds he digs. The no-dig beds did have less weeds than the beds he dug over. He does have beds with an assortment of compost types and thickness of the layer of compost. All the beds with No-Dig and plenty of homemade compost harvested a huge amount of vegetables, much more than the dug beds.
We had a lovely lunch with homemade bread (Charles has his own little mill to make flour), and a hearty vegetable soup. Followed by at least ten fresh salads. All the bowls came from the garden. They were fresh, tasty and filling. We ate in his sun room which was full of garlic, shallots, onions and dried flowers. The chat was all gardens and growing and future plans. The chat was amongst young and old, girls and boys, the retired, the mums, the student, a solider and an American. Such a great mix. Such a great course.
We had a great day. We did learn lots. We enjoyed the company.
Our main realisation was…..we feel we are doing things right to increase soil fertility, have less weeds and to produce great looking vegetables.