The No-Dig Method
This method of cultivation requires a great deal of surface mulch (well-rotted manure or compost) and patience. In principle, by not digging you will not be exposing the soil to weed seeds. Instead the existing weeds are in darkness, which causes them to weaken and die.
Here’s how to do it:
- Step 1: Apply at least 15 cms or more of an organic, well decomposed mulch to your beds and tread it down well. You don’t need to dig beforehand, as soil organisms such as worms will rise to the mulch, eat and digest it, creating a rich and well textured soil.
- Step 2: You can plant or sow direct into the surface compost of newly-created beds, just as you would normally. You will find there are less weeds to hoe, they are easy to deal with in the soft surface, and the soil beneath is firm but not compacted, as the undisturbed soil organisms develop a honeycomb of small air passages – perfect for plant root penetration. To sow seeds, use a rake to prepare a soft, crumbly tilth on the surface.
- Step 3: Use a trowel to remove any weed regrowth through mulches because it can take up to a year for all the weed roots to be exhausted. Annual weeds die within 2 to 3 months; but perennials take longer – often up to a year. Only bindweed and marestail can survive, but are weaker.
- Step 4: Ongoing maintenance involves annual applications of just 5 cms or so of compost or manure. This should be applied ideally in the autumn, when crops are cleared, or in spring on beds where winter crops have been growing
If you have a particularly weed infested growing area, and you are not wanting to plant straight away, you can use an extra covering of thick cardboard or a plastic membrane. In this case, it is all right to use half rotted compost, manure, leaves, grass mowing – or even a mix of them all - so long as it is more than 15 cms thick under the cover. It can take up to a year to completely weaken the weeds, but you can make holes in the spring to plant potatoes, courgettes and winter squash, in order to have a crop while weeds are dying.
For further information on the No Dig process visit http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/