February 24, 2018

The Allure of the No Dig Method of Gardening

I've been looking into the no dig method of gardening, which I find enticing since it would allow early planting even with our very wet springs. The theory involves laying down deep layers of compost and then planting directly into the compost, and as the grass or weeds underneath deteriorate the growing vegetables on top will grow into the underlying soil. Some people lay cardboard or newspaper down first before adding the compost, but it looks like both methods work well if there's enough compost depth.

Normally we till our garden mechanically, adding amendments like composted rabbit manure and rock dust. But our very wet springs sometimes don't allow us to till until mid-May and since our last frost date is April 10th, that is very late indeed.

The only problem is our fence, we'd have to wheelbarrow in the compost from the alley or driveway, and it would take three truckloads of compost just to do a couple inches over the whole garden. Compost is easily and cheaply available from our municipal tree waste recycler, but shoveling and moving that amount of compost sounds insane. We've done it before for our garden at our old place, but we were able to drive right up to the garden and unload directly into it.

So my dreams of early planted peas, fava beans, turnips, beets, and corn might just not happen.


Dave @ HappyAcres said...

I did a small no-dig bed (4x30 ft) a few years ago by laying down cardboard and covering with organic material. It worked fine, but it was a lot of work. We have the same situation as you, if I have compost delivered it would have to be moved quite a distance to get it to the garden.

Phuong said...

Hi Dave,
It's probably not feasible for us as well, my husband wants to give it a try but I don't want either of us to get hurt doing it. It would solve a lot of our early planting problems, but we'll just have to work around the weather instead.

Spring really feels like it's just around the corner. My onions are starting to germinate, but I'm really antsy for the peppers to come up.

Michelle said...

How about if you do just one bed for early planting and do the rest of the garden as you normally would? You could have the best of both methods.

Phuong said...

Hi Michelle,
I might end up doing a carrot bed this way as a trial run. We're also going to try growing potatoes in grow bags with compost this year.