No Dig Method & Why No Dig? (2019 Updated Guide)
Digging in the garden can be a backbreaking, sweaty chore. But did you know that you don’t always have to dig to plant a garden?
Not only do you not have to, but you might decide you prefer the no-dig method. Here’s what it is and why it’s so appealing.
No Dig Method
When you practice the no-dig method, you let nature do the cultivating for you. Rather than tilling or digging the soil, you allow the natural soil organisms and microorganisms to remain there intact. You simply clear the garden of large rocks and debris, cut grass and weeds to the ground, and place the manure, compost, or old straw on the soil’s surface at least 4 inches deep. If you like, you can place the cardboard on the ground before adding this mulch.
- Place the seeds on top of the soil or move aside a bit of dirt with a trowel to place starter plants.
- Then, push the mulch material back around them.
- Keep adding the mulching throughout the gardening period.
- The insects, worms, and microbes incorporate it into the soil. They dig tunnels that aerate the soil and improve the soil structure.
- Over time, these organisms thrive, making your soil healthier, because they are left undisturbed.
You’ll need to weed a bit, especially when you’re first starting your no-dig garden. Harvesting is a breeze. Often, all you have to do is give a gentle pull to remove root vegetables. If they don’t come up right away, you can push away a little soil with a fork to lift them out while leaving the soil relatively undisturbed.
No Dig Advantages
Here are some of the advantages of no-dig gardening:
- The beneficial worms, insects, and microbes flourish so they can improve your soil.
- The soil’s nutrient balance is easily maintained.
- The soil loses less moisture.
- You’ll have fewer weeds.
- You may have higher crop yields.
- Soil temperature is lower in the heat of the summer.
- It prevents erosion.
- You don’t have to do the hard work of digging.
It really doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is. The no-dig method works well for any size plot.
Divide up a larger garden into beds no wider than four feet across. That’s because if you have to step out onto the soil, it can cause soil compaction, which could mean you would have to dig after all. With small enough beds, you’ll never have to set foot inside the growing area. The only other thing that could stop you from planting a no-dig garden as large as you want is if you have limited composting material. In most cases, you’ll find it readily available.
Why No Dig?
Many organic and permaculture farmers and gardeners use the no-dig method. Why do they do it? It’s less work, better for the soil, and often brings bigger harvests.
When you think about it, there’s really no reason not to do it.