No dig and other 'new' ideas...

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Plot 1 Problems

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #30 on: January 15, 2021, 20:51 »
Can I recommend that this thread returns to it's original subject of the merits/ downsides to no dig and not get derailed into a climate change debate. Thanks.

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Growster...

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #31 on: January 16, 2021, 06:49 »
I wondered what C.H.Middleton (wartime broadcaster and writer on all things gardening), might have said, and have just looked it up...

In short, his take is that the main reason for digging, is to aerate as much of the soil depth as is possible, which entails double-digging, to enable natural and applied nutrients compost etc., to get further down in the ground, and encourage larger crops from extended root systems. Also, an autumn dig lets the weather take care of much of the spring preparation after the frosts etc. have done their work.

An old boy I knew well, used to sum it all up by saying 'You want a deeply dug soil, so that veg can get down deeper, because that is where the grub is'!

Nowadays, we don't rely on the need to have yard-long carrots or parsnips, as there are so many new varieties which grow quite comfortably in shallow topsoil, but that wouldn's have been the case all those years ago, I suspect.

Nowadays, I'd definitely dig to get rid of all the invasive weeds, and also - in a strange way, actually enjoy the task, as it really is making nature behave properly, but after that, it's tilling and hoeing, because there's so much compost, old growbags etc. chucked everywhere at home, there really is no need to dig deeply any more.

So that's a sort of compromise I suppose...

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New shoot

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #32 on: January 16, 2021, 09:02 »
I don’t think anyone on our site does the full double digging routine these days.

The idea of double digging as the norm came about from the days of the Victorian head gardeners I think.  They had to make veg grow on whatever bit of land their employer chose to have their productive garden on of course, but had an army of men and boys to do their bidding.  Sadly it is just me at the plot and I take easy options whenever I can   :lol:

As well as no-dig, I use other ideas such as trench composting.  As with most ‘new’ ideas, this is actually a very old method of incorporating fresh green waste or kitchen peelings into the soil and survives to this day as bean trenches.  Vermicompost is a big deal in places like India, where they do away with a wormery and make worm compost on a larger scale.  That could be worth exploring if you want a lot of material for no-dig mulching.

ERF - VERMICOMPOSTING USING LOCAL VARIETIES OF EARTHWORMS


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Growster...

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #33 on: January 16, 2021, 09:36 »
I guess you're right, News, it is an 'old fashioned' concept!

In our old group of allotments, there were a couple down the bottom, which were used by the local school. Our butcher, (sadly popped off to the chop-house on high), told me that when he was a kid, they were told to double-dig the whole lot, presumably for school meals etc. Many years later, one of the plots was taken over by a chap who was an excellent gardener, and grew the biggest carrots I'd ever seen!

When I asked him how on earth he got them so long and chubby, he mildly told me that it was all down to digging! I know he used to make the trenches and sprinkle pellets down deep, (presumably to provide the 'grub' mentioned above), but we could never fault his skills!

Meant to say earlier (Mrs Growster wanted her PC), that if you look at all those aerial photos from the twenties (Britain from above), the numbers and sizes of cultivated gardens are just amazing, especially where there must have been a dedicated gardener, or even a team, working the soil like Mr Middleton would have done! Their rows were immaculate - much better than mine, which were pretty poor when I looked at our old Patch on Gurgle Earth)...
« Last Edit: January 16, 2021, 10:35 by Growster... »

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rowlandwells

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #34 on: January 16, 2021, 12:04 »
you know this topic gets better as it goes along  :D my father in law used to dig his plots with a shovel well the ground was light soil and he did the trench method and that was the way they did things years ago they had a load of good manure and trenched  it in the ground never seen that done today on our plots nor anyone double digging some have a job to dig there plots once let alone twice  :D

and as you say new shoot that old method of green waste although we don't do that method I have seen that done and of cause commercial growers plough in the waste veg

we also put our spent compost on our plots mostly on the raised beds mix it with horse manure and as said years ago these big houses had an army of men nowadays there's the  two of us the wife and me and a tractor a rotavator and a mantis that does help things no dig for me i use that 1950's fergi to dig our plots  :D

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mumofstig

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #35 on: January 16, 2021, 12:36 »
You can really tell when soil has been dug deeply and manured over many years, the depth of good topsoil is amazing, in some of the old walled gardens.
So I don't think there is anything 'wrong' with digging - just that some people choose not to.
I'm always surprised how deeply entrenched the 2 sides are, though, tbh.

Growster, you are not alone, I can never manage a straight row either  ::)
Lesley x
I'm not good, I'm not bad - I'm just me, and sometimes I have to apologise for that ;)

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Fishplate42

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #36 on: January 16, 2021, 15:10 »
Thank you to all who have participated so far in this thread. I had no idea there is still so much support for the 'traditional' way of working the ground. I do nail my flag to the 'dig' approach, but I am more than willing to listen and try new ideas. Furthermore, I do think that a lot of the no-dig advocates have been guided by the sheep-like following that YouTube gardeners seem to propagate; This is how to do it content. Charles Dowding seems to be the master of ceremonies, not only on YouTube but in the gardening press too. I am not saying anything he says is wrong, far from it, but there is more than one way to skin a cat, and Mr Dowding is running a market garden, not a hobby allotment.

One of the originators of no-dig, and I suspect where Mr Dowding got a lot of his inspiration from, is Elliot Coleman. He started a market garden on land with next to no soil back in the late 1960s and has lots of great ideas and tips to pass on. If you like organic growing and are interested in the no-dig approach, then take a look at Elliot Coleman. I am in the process of reading his book (The New Organic Grower) at the moment. Although I am sure it will not inspire me to turn my allotments over to lots of small beds that don't get dug, I am sure I will learn something that I can use.

For now, I will have to wait. Down here in Kent, we have had so much rain in recent weeks, everything is just swimming in water, no chance of digging my plot! I can't even get on with the 'projects' I normally do at this time of year as the grass and any flat areas are just so slippery. There is nothing worse than temperatures just above freezing. At least if the ground freezes, I can build stuff. Yes, I know, I can when its raining, but you are forgetting, I am a soft southerner ;)

Ralph   
I need more space...

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rowlandwells

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #37 on: January 16, 2021, 15:24 »
 that's spoken by a true gardener and gentleman Ralph. and i think i could class myself as a soft southerner to its all to do with our age two jumpers now instead of one 20 years ago mate ;)

and when spring comes along all of us will be there on our plots doing our bit dig or no dig  :D :D


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Hungry Caterpillar

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #38 on: January 21, 2021, 21:34 »
I think the right way to look after your plot is the way which works best for you, everyone is different and the same is true of allotments!

I'm somewhere in the middle, half my plot is raised beds and half isn't, and I'll dig when I think it's useful but don't do much winter digging. In the spring I'll dig out perennial weeds if there's just a few of them or I'll dig "properly" if there's too many. I try to keep most of the ground covered with winter crops or green manure at this time of year, which means no winter digging, and wouldn't have time to dig the whole plot between when the ground becomes fit to work in the spring and when I need to plant or sow it. I guess that's a habit from working on my dad's allotment as a kid, the soil was very sandy and all the goodness would wash out of bare ground the first time it rained, despite getting a load of manure every year. (As for no dig, I've not tried, I never seem to have enough compost to spread it everywhere, even with growing extra...)

As for raised beds, they are useful on wet ground, some of the paths between mine are flooded at the moment, but I wouldn't bother with them on drier ground. My soil does seem to benefit from not being trodden on in the beds, though doesn't seem to mind digging. One point to remember if you do put raised beds in is to make the paths wide enough for your wheelbarrow! 
This post is 100% biodegradable and can be composted after use.

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Fishplate42

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2021, 12:42 »
I started this post with a goodly amount of trepidation. It has been refreshing to see that the subject can be discussed from both sides without dictate. Over the past week or so, since I started this post, I have had a bit of a change of heart. My initial idea was to build some uniform (in size) raised beds from substantial timber in order to be able to erect standard size covers that can be swapped around between beds. That plan has now been modified.

Forty years ago, I was growing in 'raised beds' but not as we think of them today. I had the back of next door's garden as a veg patch. The lady who lived there was not interested in the garden and in return for mowing the front half as a lawn, I had permission to use the back half to grow veg. The garden was a long strip (typical London Victorian terrace garden) about eighteen-feet wide. I cut beds, four-feet wide across the width leaving grass paths between, and one down the near side. The edges of the paths were cut deeply and the soil slightly raised in the middle of the bed, giving a good deep growing depth. Although the soil was London clay below, there was plenty of topsoil above, a good two spits deep. I grow in those beds successfully for years, until the occupiers of the house next door changed, and they wanted the ground back.

Our plot here in Kent is a bit different compared to our old London garden. This time of year it is impossible to walk on the soil as it is so wet. With our open-plot style, we have just written off the winter months and  planned to grow spring and summer crops only. The raised beds I talked about in the first post were proposed in order to give us somewhere we could access during inclement weather. It then became obvious to me that I had been overthinking this.

Now the plan is to just define the small area of beds with paths. Unlike our London garden there is not an established lawn out of which to cut them. Instead, I now intend to retain the paths with lighter boards and adopt the same process as we used all those years ago in London. A bit of modern thinking going on here, by digging out the paths and loading the soil onto the beds and then filling the void with lots of woodchips. As this decomposes, as it will over the years, it will be replenished with new and, in time, the old stuff added to the beds as a mulch.

The idea is to make the beds a uniform size but with the boards that retain the path will be largely exposed on the bed-side with the paths level with the surrounding grass that define our plots.

Thank you for all the input on this subject. I just goes to show that you can teach and old dog new tricks!

Ralph.

       

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bobbyt

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Re: No dig and other 'new' ideas...
« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2021, 13:03 »
Just one thing to consider, I used wood chips for my path, it's just down the middle of the plot about 10metre long and 0.75 metre wide. The wood chips do blow about a lot in heavy wind and also stick to muddy wellies when wet and migrate on to the beds. They don't decompose very well in my experience. Someone on here mentioned putting cardboard down instead, which sounds better to me, which I am going to try after removing the chips. Just a thought.



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