An Australian named Esther Deans first developed the idea of the No-Dig Gardens method. It was originally developed both as a labor saving idea and a backyard organicgardening method to rejuvenate badly depleted soil in a vegetable garden.
The process involves starting with layers of newspaper and by adding lucerne hay, straw and compost in succeeding layers; you can create a plant-growing medium without having to resort to heavy digging. No-Dig Gardens develop into rich growing nutrients, which will simplify weeding and encourage your much-desired plants to grow. The layers of the organic scraps compost together, and greatly encourage garden earthworms. This is an excellent idea for new homeowners that have acquired a “grassy forest” in their new backyard.
These organic gardening techniques are maintained by adding compost layers of newspapers, manure, organic scraps etc., and should not be dug up, as this will undo the natural good work. I have used this approach in creating my own no dig vegetablegarden, and it certainly does work.
The principle of no dig gardens has sound foundations. Over cultivating the soil, especially when very wet or very dry, will damage the structure of the soil, and lead to hard compacted soil. Such excessive cultivation can also discourage the garden earthworms habitat, and they are the best free labor a gardener will ever have.
Some followers of permaculture principals and organic gardening techniques have translated the no-dig gardens method into a never-dig method, which I believe that they are sadly mistaken. If you start with a base soil that is badly compacted, then no-dig gardens will initially work well, however you may find your garden does not continue to perform well in the long run. The fertile compost layer you have built up will encourage the earthworm’s reproduction, but we do know that the worms eventually will need shelter from excessive hot, dry, cold or wet conditions. They have been found to seek shelter from extreme conditions by burrowing more deeply into the soil, sometime many feet down. If they cannot shelter in this way, it is my contention that they will die out or move out.
My belief is that an initial cultivation (tilling) of the soil before you apply the no-dig gardens system will guarantee a better environment for an earthworm’s habitat, and then produce a much better home garden soil for growing your plants, over the longer term.
By all means give the no-dig approach a try – especially for you new homeowners – you will be surprisingly pleased with the result.
Kali Winters is gardening enthusiast and author who spends much of her time teaching others how to setup and maintain beautiful, amazing gardens. Her latest book, “Holistic Herbs~A Beginners Guide to Herbal Gardening” is available Here!
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