We all agree that gardening would be so much fun, and many people would find themselves taking gardening as a weekend hobby if no back-breaking digging and tilling would be involved.
While you may be nodding your head in agreement but still wondering how on earth would that be possible? I am here to tell you it’s indeed possible and is being done. This type of gardening is possible thanks to a farming method called no-dig gardening, also referred to as sheet mulching by the Americans.
However, why has it not been adopted by farmers? Well, you know how we humans behave. We always like following; we carry on doing what our parents or other people did without questioning the process.
Tilling of land is what we saw and what we have continued doing ever since. Soil tilling is excellent, but it was meant for the large-scale farms, and the small-scale gardeners adopted it.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Land Tilling?
The first disadvantage comes from understanding that your garden soil contains millions of micro-organisms and each one of them is adapted to surviving only in a certain specific depth.
By tilling and turning the soil, you abruptly alter the environment by exposing them to conditions they are not used to, hence killing them.
For instance, through digging you raise the micro-organisms that exist deep in the soil structure to the surface exposing them to sun rays which burn them to death. Additionally, those that can only survive in the topsoil layer are buried deep down thus suffocating them to death.
Digging also affects the delicate soil structure which exposes delicate organic matter and nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen. As a consequence, the water retention of the soil worsens leading to compaction and development of hardpan. Soil erosion is also imminent.
You might be asking, “but can’t all that be corrected by adding fertilizers?” Well, it can. However, as you may already know, fertilizers are only effective for a short while.
Why risk making your soil sterile in the long run to get short-term results when you can get better results with a less tiresome method that will work for hand in hand with the other soil organisms to make your garden richer?back to menu ↑
What Is No Dig Gardening?
No dig gardening is a type of organic gardening mostly practiced by small-scale farmers where you cover your garden with natural materials such as compost, manure, leaf mold, spent mushroom compost, etcetera and then plant your crops on that cover.
To kill the weeds, a layer of wet newspaper or cardboard is added to prevent any weeds from penetrating. It is almost the same as mulching only that this is more advanced and more effective.back to menu ↑
Benefits Of No Dig Gardening
1. To begin with, would you rather spend your whole day or precious weekend sweating your face off in the garden, lying to yourself that you are making your garden better only to have endless sleepless nights filled with backaches when you can add all the necessary organic ingredients and let nature do its work?
Of course, no one would, but have you ever wondered why the forests are usually so green yet nobody tends to them? It’s simple.
By introducing all the necessary organic components to the soil which we will talk about later, the soil automatically revitalizes itself, digs itself up through earthworms and develops all the essential nutrients that will organically support your crops without any need of adding fertilizers.
No more back aches or any investments in digging tools or fertilizers.
2. No dig gardening is very easy to set up, requires low maintenance, and is very cost effective since no fertilizer or any other chemicals are needed. Also, you spend less time in the garden since very minimal weeding or watering is needed.
3. With no-dig gardening, your plants can absorb more nutrients from the soil thanks to mycorrhizal fungi that helps the roots absorb moisture and nutrients from tiny spaces that the roots cannot reach. These fungi are usually destroyed during digging and grow at a prolonged rate.
4. Having your soil structure not affected by digging means that drainage will be more effective and your crops can comfortably grow even during the wet seasons and still produce a bumper harvest.
5. With no-dig gardening, you are guaranteed that your soil will always remain warm even during the winter season allowing you to enjoy your harvests earlier than other farmers.
6. Lastly, you also get the rare chance of planting your crops any time of the year without requiring any soil preparation. All you need to do is clear the previous crop, and you are good to go.
The no-dig gardening is the best method for you if you are the kind of busy farmer who works 5-6 days a week and has only 1-2 days of tending to the crops.back to menu ↑
Disadvantages Of No Dig Gardening Methods
While no single method that does not have its limitations, here are the disadvantages of no-dig gardening.
- Unlike fertilizers, no dig gardening takes longer to revitalize the poor However, you are sure that once the soil improves, it will remain that way for a long time, unlike fertilizers that need to be added now and then.
- Due to the soil covering, the pests that exist underneath are not exposed to predators.
- Soil can become compacted or poorly drained if not correctly
Now that you have an idea of all the advantages and disadvantages of no-dig gardening let’s dive deeper into what it exactly is and how you can get started effortlessly.back to menu ↑
How To Get Started With No Dig Gardening
As you may have guessed, the fact that its origin cannot be traced to a particular specific source means that there is no specific formula for doing it. However, it is mostly recommended for use as raised beds, but it all depends on the resources available and the desired look of your garden.
We will, however, focus on preparing a raised bed in this article.
- The first step is selecting the piece of land you intend to plant. Ideally, it should be in a location that receives at least 5 hours of sunlight a day, and it is reasonably level. Once you have your best place selected, slash all the weeds and any vegetation to ground level.
- The second step is gathering all the ingredients you need, and here is the list: you will need newspapers or cardboard, animal manure or organic fertilizer, Lucerne bales or straw bales or both, compost. You can also add worm castings, kitchen scraps or premade potting mix. The quantities vary depending on the size of your bed and how many you want to create; however, the thickness of every material ideally remains constant for every bed. If your piece of land is covered with grass, you might also be required to purchase some lime, and blood and bone fertilizer which should be sprinkled on the grass to make it rot once covered.
- After applying the fertilizer and lime to the grass, sprinkle water over it and then lay down sheets of newspaper in layers approximately 0.5 cm thick. After that, spray water to the paper and create an overlap of 10-15cm at the edges to prevent grass or weeds from penetrating.
- Next, lay down a layer of Lucerne approximately 7-10 cm thick and water it as well.
- Add a layer of manure approximately 5cm and water it. You can also combine it with other materials such as kitchen waste, worm castings, and potting mix.
- Add a layer of straw or any other carbon-containing material such as hay, sugar cane and mulch 10cm thick and water it.
- Add a layer of compost on top or manure 5cm thick and then another layer of straw 7-10 cm thick and water after each layer.
- The last step is making pockets of compost in the top layer and then planting your seedlings. You should start by digging small holes 10-15 cm wide and deep, filling those holes with compost and then planting in those holes.
Once you have completed all that, your bed is now ready, and all you need to do is water your crops and wait for the harvest.
This is not the only method, but I believe it is the easiest and most effortless. You can also find more methods here.