No dig gardening means just that. Effectively, it’s where you don’t use a fork or spade to disturb or loosen the soil in any way. The aim is for minimal disturbance of the soil resulting in better, healthier soil.
This short video explains why soil is so important and why we need to protect it.
The principle of no dig is that by avoiding digging you will not be disrupting the soil life, specifically the important micro-organisms, funghi and worms, that help plant roots, protects the soil from erosion and keeps the carbon in the soil.
Composts and manures are put on the surface and get dragged down into the soil below by worms, emulating the natural cycle where animal manures and dead plants, leaves etc are just deposited on the surface. The worms help aerate the soil allowing oxygen to penetrate through their tunnels. The soil structure is maintained and the micro-flora especially mycorrhizal fungi are minimally disturbed. Because the soil is not disturbed, weed seeds waiting to germinate are not brought to the surface so weeds should be less of a problem.
The system is usually combined with closely spaced planting and mulching to avoid bare ground. It provides a rich soil to grow in, and is an excellent way to clear a weed infested growing area.
You may be thinking well how do I get those tough weeds out without digging? Well the principle in no dig is that weeds are deprived of light, and they will then die back, they simply need covering for long enough for the weeds to die.
Check out our quick guide on how to create a no dig bed below.
Charles Dowding has been an advocate for no dig gardening since he first started growing vegetables in 1981. We re recommend taking a look at his YouTube channel and he has also written a number of books.