No dig and other 'new' ideas...

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Fishplate42

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No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« on: January 12, 2021, 17:16 »
I have been growing plants most of my life. Not just to eat but ornamentals too. Recently we have taken a new allotment on after several decades of growing on our own patch of dirt. We had allotments in the past, but that was a couple of decades ago (at least) lots has changed!

I am not one for change, but I am always interested to see how others do things and if I like the idea I am happy to give it a go. I like the idea of some beds with timber boarders and I intend to build half a dozen raised beds for some crops. But, for the life of me I do not get the following and ultimate dedication to the no-dig idea. It seems to me that instead if digging, you just load on lots of new compost each year and grow in that. Surly that is far more work than just digging the plot?

Personally I am not convinced that a technique adopted initially in America by market gardeners is applicable to hobby allotments. I know I am probably in the minority here, but I am prepared to be convinced if anyone can forward a valid argument in favour. 

I'm off to find my tin hat ;-)

Ralph.
I need more space...

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al78

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2021, 17:46 »
Not in my experience so far, and I bag horse manure from a nearby field and carry it across the field and up and over a gate before transporting it to the plot and spreading it. To cover a couple of beds with manure takes about two hours of work. To dig over the same two beds would take at least four or five times longer and require much more effort.

The idea is it is better for soil health, it mimics how soils are fed in nature, it doesn't disturb useful soil life, and it cuts down on weeding because annual seeds aren't brought to the surface.

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mumofstig

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2021, 17:48 »
Quote
It seems to me that instead if digging, you just load on lots of new compost each year and grow in that. Surly that is far more work than just digging the plot?
My back agrees with you, considering how far my allotment is from the car parking area  :ohmy: so I find some gentle forking over suits be better. The only real digging I do is for planting and harvesting potatoes ;)
Lesley x
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snowdrops

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2021, 07:47 »
Iím a convert to no dig after 30+ years of digging, although in truth I never did dig an awful lot & never did the old winter dig but then again Iíve never had clay soil. I echo what al78 says about the reasons & less weeds on my allotment is always a bonus. If youíre setting up a new plot why donít you try it & a sceptic of the approach you could do a real experiment, you never know you might surprise yourself.
I can understand mums views if it is a struggle to get the amount of composts to the plot but I now make around 5 cubic meters of compost a year to add on & in this my 4th year of totally being no dig it should probably be enough  as you donít have to add masses to already prepared beds. One of the things that is not recommended is raised b do unless you need to for mobility reasons. That is because in this climate they can provide a hiding place for slugs,snails & woodlice, who then come out & eat your crops.
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Fishplate42

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2021, 08:56 »
I hear what you are saying, but I question the quantities of material required. I can see it could work on a small scale. Most no-dig plots seem to be divided into small beds with lots of space taken up with paths. In my case we have three 'half' plots that are all managed in the traditional manner i.e. they are dug over and most crop planted in long rows. It would take many tons of material to cover this area to just a few inches deep.

I can see the advantages of growing some crops in smaller areas. To that end I am planning on building half a dozen beds (9ft x 4ft) in two rows at the top of one of our plots. These will be made from ex-scaffold boards and will be built all to similar dimensions, so I can build 'standard' width frames that fit on top, and transferred from one bed to another, providing various forms of protection. It also means I can contain and modify soil types to suit the crop, confined within a smaller area.

Ralph :)

 

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snowdrops

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2021, 08:59 »
I have 2 x 1/2 plots. Itís usually advised itís the same amount of compost used each year but left on the top not dug in.

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Fishplate42

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2021, 09:55 »
Itís usually advised itís the same amount of compost used each year but left on the top not dug in.

Interesting, so from what source does the advice originate and where does the compost come from? To cover that amount of land you must use a lot of compost to make any difference.

Ralph.

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al78

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2021, 10:18 »
I hear what you are saying, but I question the quantities of material required. I can see it could work on a small scale. Most no-dig plots seem to be divided into small beds with lots of space taken up with paths. In my case we have three 'half' plots that are all managed in the traditional manner i.e. they are dug over and most crop planted in long rows. It would take many tons of material to cover this area to just a few inches deep.

I can see the advantages of growing some crops in smaller areas. To that end I am planning on building half a dozen beds (9ft x 4ft) in two rows at the top of one of our plots. These will be made from ex-scaffold boards and will be built all to similar dimensions, so I can build 'standard' width frames that fit on top, and transferred from one bed to another, providing various forms of protection. It also means I can contain and modify soil types to suit the crop, confined within a smaller area.

Ralph :)

I'm not quite no dig, more minimal digging. I dig locally to get out persistend perennial weeds such as dandelions, bindweed and creeping buttercup. My plot is divided into beds that extend the full width of the plot and are about 1.2-1.5 meters wide, with weed fabric doubled over between beds, about half a meter wide wide or a bit less. Not much of the plot is given over to paths and I have plenty of growing space. I don't have any edging on the paths, so occasionally I have to shift small amounts of soil from the paths to the beds.

I collect manure from a local field (a friend of mine keeps horses) and I go there to bag manure most weekends during the autumn and winter, or when a bed has been cleared during the growing season. In one visit I can collect enough manure to cover one bed to a depth of 3-4 inches. I have about 10 beds to cover so I could comfortably cover all beds in a month given 2-3 trips every weekend. The process of bagging the manure and carrying it to the car is very hard work, but it doesn't take more than half an hour per trip, and I think of it as good utility strength training during these periods when the gyms have closed. It is basically like doing a farmers walk https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-do-a-farmer-carry-techniques-benefits-variations-4796615 with 20-30kg in each hand for several repetitions.

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New shoot

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2021, 10:39 »
I can see the advantages of growing some crops in smaller areas. To that end I am planning on building half a dozen beds (9ft x 4ft) in two rows at the top of one of our plots. These will be made from ex-scaffold boards and will be built all to similar dimensions, so I can build 'standard' width frames that fit on top, and transferred from one bed to another, providing various forms of protection. It also means I can contain and modify soil types to suit the crop, confined within a smaller area.

Ralph :)

I have raised beds at home that I mulch and treat as no-dig and it does work well, so your plan is a good one  :)

I have a foot in both camps as I have a full plot spilt into 2 pieces on ether same site and access is difficult for bulk deliveries of material or carrying much in (uphill and narrow paths).  I have a no-dig fruit area on one piece of plot that I mulch heavily, then with whatever I have left for mulching, I make a few no-dig areas on the other plot.

My mulch is homemade compost from my various bins and used bark chips and wood shavings from the chicken run.  The base layer of the wood shavings was composted, but now I just spread the fresh stuff on top.  It is liberally sprinkled with activator (chicken poop) and the soft fruit loves it  :)

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snowdrops

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2021, 11:04 »
Itís usually advised itís the same amount of compost used each year but left on the top not dug in.

Interesting, so from what source does the advice originate and where does the compost come from? To cover that amount of land you must use a lot of compost to make any difference.

Ralph.

Most of advice comes via Charles Dowding, heís spent the last 38 years or so doing no dig on his various market garden sites. As I said previously I make about 5 cubic metres of compost each year now, I do get horse manure from a local stables, some fresh to add to the compost bins & some well rotted to go on the ground, mainly because I want to. They bag it up & I collect it ( well I in the loosest sense, I usually get some poor unsuspecting individual , my daughter, or her partner, to help as she has a truck), but in reality I donít think now it is necessary. Iíve found my crops to be much stronger & itís like they have rocket fuel on them. Hereís a picture I took yesterday of freshly harvested parsnips, the ground was prepared with well rotted manure laid out on top, with a sprinkle of homemade compost to sow into

Sorry itís saying I have no photos in my photo folder! Iíll add them later

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rowlandwells

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2021, 12:28 »
I'm in your club Fishplate all our raised beds are winter dug and have horse  manure spread  the rest of the plots that are winter ploughed last year we went in for a  green manure trial that we ploughed in before winter and we use other fertilizers in the growing season

 to go with no dig would be far more expensive for us maybe its better for those who have problems digging or small plots that's understandable  and people that have got hooked on the idea of no dig well that's fine if that's the way the prefer to grow 

but if you look at most professional and commercial growers its all done the traditional way so what you have to ask yourself  if the no dig idea would improve cropping then this would have been adopted around that idea but with modern methods of growing and the machinery needed far out ways the no dig idea

so its really all about ones preferred option to dig or not to dig and its all about what you prefer to do and not being told its better to no dig or better to dig if ones  happy to carry on as one has done for many years then carry on basically if it not broken why fix it




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al78

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2021, 13:05 »
but if you look at most professional and commercial growers its all done the traditional way so what you have to ask yourself  if the no dig idea would improve cropping then this would have been adopted around that idea but with modern methods of growing and the machinery needed far out ways the no dig idea

so its really all about ones preferred option to dig or not to dig and its all about what you prefer to do and not being told its better to no dig or better to dig if ones  happy to carry on as one has done for many years then carry on basically if it not broken why fix it

Commercial growing is not comparable to hobby gardening. Commmercial growing is primarily focused on maximising profit, regardless of the consequences (i.e. externalised costs). People who have allotments don't want to grow crops intensively, so they are able to garden in a way that is more compatible with the natural world (I would hope). Intensive farming is a broken system from a sustainability and future consequences viewpoint, but if money is the only motive, externalised costs that someone else picks up are fair game.

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rowlandwells

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2021, 15:03 »
 i note what your saying 178 but i should mention although I'm not growing for profit I'm never the less growing for results of all the hard work that we put into growing good tasty food and to maximise every thing  but at the same time utilize all the  ground for that growing  period

we try to evert buying any winter veg because quite a lot of what we grow goes in the freezer and any left overs are given away to other's

we should as a country be focused on buying from British growers where possible and Farmers Markets have proven to meet customer needs at a fair price together with good fresh produce

i have to say i don't look at  consequences of growing food only consequences comes into play with me is by putting good quality veg on the table that as far as I'm  concerned is good wholesome vegetables that are  a recipe for good living and to reduce obesity because there's so much clap trap  adverts on the tele for buying junk food that is an avert for our younger  generation to become obese  :(

i can't say my methods of gardening world be compatible with  the natural world sorry something i haven't  been convinced  to buy into yet  :D


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snowdrops

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2021, 15:14 »
Hereís yesterdayís harvest of no dig parsnips sown into homemade compost on top of well rotted manure on top of soil. :)
F53000E4-9B26-4D77-AD78-BA6657DD398D.jpeg

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bobbyt

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2021, 16:06 »
My plot is basically two beds with a narrow path in the centre, each bed is approx 10 x 3 metres, so 60 sq metres total. For a no dig philosophy, I'm guessing that's an awful lot of compost or manure, especially if you have to go at least 10cm deep with it. I struggle to get the amount of compost I need to just do a small patch at a time each year, which I then leave and dig in spring. Also I'd have to hunt down a lot of suitable cardboard each year.

I have a 'Dalek' compost bin, which to be honest doesn't yield an awful lot each year, even though I top it up with kitchen waste and cardboard and paper etc every other week. It never seems to accumulate in any usable quantity, just shrinks to about 6 inches high. We have fresh horse manure delivered to the site, but to get that from the tipping point to my plot to cover only 3x3 metres, as I did this year, was really hard work, much harder than digging, and that's on sticky clay soil.

So I'm guessing no dig is only useful on smaller plots, or individual beds?



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