Nature always wants to heal over bare ground – this is what the job of weeds do. They are designed to grow fast and cover ground which is why they are often so invasive and why we don’t like them! So we have to stop and ask ourselves, is creating bare ground really the best thing for our soils? Not only does it actively encourage weed growth which we don’t want but it also leaves the soil exposed to wind and rain causing loss of soil through erosion and leaching of nutrients.
No-dig is the natural way of things, woodland floors are a carpet of spongy leaf litter beautifully protecting the soil and tree roots.
Charles Dowding is a hero of ours, he is a huge advocate of no-dig and has been running disturbed (dug) and undisturbed (undug, or top-dressed)beds alongside each other for demonstrative purposes since 2007. All beds were initially prepared the same, and the seedling modules that are sown out into the beds are using the same medium. Generally he has seen that the undug beds hold a 6% higher yield. He has also noticed a discernible difference in quality with leaves looking darker and glossier in the undug beds and less slug damage. He also observes a 2/3’s reduction in weeds from not digging but mulching instead! Spring growth is noticeably stronger and in dry weather, water can easily soak into the undug soil.
There’s also lots of science now emerging about the importance of mycorrhizal fungi and the function they serve as the soils communication network – we essentially sever this everytime we dig.
All briliiant reasons to try no-dig!
As is typical of life things don’t always work out in the ideal way! Due to an abundance of couch grass – quite an invasive weed we decided, upon advice, to plough our neighbouring two alleys as a one off to help eradicate the couch grass by using buckwheat as a suppressant – see our blog page soil fertility and couch grass more info.