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Re-thinking No-Dig Systems

Digging New Plot

Digging the New Plot – Rain Stops Play

I’ve always been doubtful of no-dig systems. I’ve got a number of reasons for this. Firstly I tend to stick to what I know works and traditional double digging mixing in organic matter to add humus certainly does improve the soil, deepening and aerating it.

On the other hand, I do some growing in raised beds and the the first rule, once they’re established, is not to walk on or dig over raised beds. They do get some minimal cultivation when harvesting, especially root crops, but that’s it.

My trials of no-dig methods on heavy clay convinced me that it wasn’t effective but the soil here is lighter, almost sandy. If it wasn’t for all the blasted rocks it would potentially be very good soil once the pH is raised (it’s very acid) and humus increased.

Now we’ve been double digging and adding manure to the new vegetable area but with starting late and the weather turning wet and wetter, progress has really slowed down. What could be best is to run half as no-dig. I’ve certainly got a lot of manure and compost so the worst that can happen is I dig it over next year.

In the Polytunnel

Because this is the first year and January was spent in getting the basics done, the tunnel is only now starting. Still, I’m learning a lot as I go with it. If starting again I’d do some things differently but happily nothing too major.

I sowed some broadbeans into the right hand border at the back. I’d got some beans, The Sutton, sowed in pots in the greenhouse which I’d thought to plant in the tunnel but thinking about it, they’re a dwarf which makes them quite suitable for the windy outdoors. So the Sutton beans will go into a raised bed outside.

I have a bag of Imperial Green Longpod that were to go out but they are taller and more likely to suffer wind damage so they’ll go in the tunnel. Pretty obvious when the brain is functioning, which mine sometimes does…

I decided to use a near standard spacing, 20 cm apart each way in double rows with 45 cm between the double row (normally 60 cm) which brings them 15 cm in from the sides. I used a 6 ft (180 cm) length. The rest are going into pots in the greenhouse. I’ll use them to fill any gaps in the tunnel and plant the rest out in a raised bed.

I also sowed a couple of rows of radishes. Just French Breakfast which I’ve yet to find better. I’ve got some French radishes which I think are actually French Breakfast under a different name – not English Breakfast.

It was pouring with rain whilst I was in the tunnel, reminded me of camping when the rain is pattering on the canvas. I’ve even got the fold-up camping chair but not a sleeping bag in there.. yet!

In the Potting Shed

In the potting shed I sowed a load of spring onions – White Lisbon and Guardsman. Normally I would sow directly in rows but I’m trying a method suggested to me where you sow a pinch of seeds into a module and then plant out the modules. They are called bunching onions, so it should work.

Propagation Tip

Dry seed compost can be very difficult to get wet. Rather than just watering from the top, sit the seed tray into water and leave it for a while to soak up water and get thoroughly wet through prior to sowing.

Seed Tray Soaking

Seed Tray Soaking in Water Bath

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
3 comments on “Re-thinking No-Dig Systems
  1. Snowdrops says:

    As to whether to dig or not I feel there are advantages of both ways. Just read an article by Bob Flowerdew in WI Life magazine, November & December issue that advocates no dig unless you are breaking up virgin soil. I do a bit of both depending on my mood, soil & weather conditions & inclination. I’ve got 2x 1/2 plots that were infested with horsetail, so if I see roots I dig them out but on the whole I pull it out when it gets between 7/10 cms tall. This approach seems to be working well with it. I have long narrow beds & try very hard not to walk on them plus it is quite good loam.

  2. Kathy says:

    What would you do differently, starting off with your polytunnel John?

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