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With the step-by-step instructions in The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening, you’ll discover how to build healthy, easy-to-plant garden soil by adding layers of organic matter using one of several different no-dig techniques. Whether you garden in a small, urban backyard or on several acres in the country, this simple approach lets you grow more food and blooms than ever before, and leave the gas-guzzling tiller behind forever. Plus, when you don't disturb the soil, weed seeds stay buried deep where they can't germinate and carbon is kept sequestered in the ground. No-dig gardening techniques also lead to reduced watering needs and a healthy population of beneficial soil microbes that help feed your plants by breaking down organic matter and releasing nutrients.
In addition to extolling the endless benefits of no-dig growing, author and veggie-growing expert Charlie Nardozzi hands you the tools you need to:
- Create a new no-dig garden from scratch
- Transition an existing garden to the no-dig method
- Build the most productive, nutrient-rich soil possible
- Recycle yard waste by building a Hugelkultur planting mound
- Discover more about some great variations of no-dig gardening, including raised beds and containers
- Bring your no-dig garden indoors for a continuous harvest
Welcome oodles of fresh, homegrown veggies, herbs, and flowers into your life—with no back-breaking work required!
From the Publisher
INTRODUCTION: What is No-Dig Gardening?
This book is inspired by early no-dig pioneers and is dedicated to their work and the continuing work of so many other gardeners. While in university, I remember reading the classic One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. This Japanese farmer discovered innovative ways to build the fertility of his land, such as growing daikon radishes and leaving them to decompose in the soil as a cover crop to break up compacted soils. In Australia, Esther Deans was starting her no-dig garden experiment with layers of newspaper, hay, straw, and compost because she had such heavy clay soil that traditional gardening was almost impossible. In the United States in the 1970s, Ruth Stout added to the body of no-dig knowledge with her deep-mulching techniques. She found simply by keeping a thick organic mulch cover on the soil year-round, she could easily plant without much weeding, watering, or fertilizing required. This made for a productive garden with less work.
Fast-forward to modern no-dig practitioners, such as Charles Dowding in England with his compost-rich no-dig system. Australian permaculturist Morag Gamble uses various layering techniques in her beds. American Toby Hemenway offers interesting ways to plant no-dig beds, such as the polyculture technique. The methods of no-dig vary around the world. I’m highlighting some of the best in this book. Which methods you choose will depend on your location and situation.
THE BENEFITS OF NO-DIG GARDENING
No-dig gardening requires less work than traditional gardening practices, can be more productive, and helps sequester carbon, reducing global warming.
No-dig gardening increases soil health and fertility, reduces weeding, watering, and fertilizing, and requires fewer outside inputs. Let’s look at each of these benefits in more detail.
The Soil Wins – No-dig gardening helps preserve soil moisture and fertility and makes for better air and water flow.
No-Dig Helps the Planet – By not turning the soil, we’re slowing down the rate of soil carbon decomposition. Also, no-dig gardening encourages the formation of humus that holds carbon in the soil.
Less Work for You – No longer will you have to dig new garden beds, turn old beds each spring, or remove sod and weeds. I won’t lie to you. No-dig gardening does require some work, especially when starting out. Gathering and layering organic materials, compost, and raised bed materials (if you choose to use them) to build your no-dig beds will take time and effort.
Lower Start-Up Costs – By using organic materials you have on hand, you can create the layers needed to get the no-dig bed process going. Later in this book, I’ll talk about areas of the world where no-dig beds are built with just native grasses, branches, animal manures, food scraps, and paper materials.
Easier to Maintain – Inherent in no-dig gardening are raised beds. Raised beds also allow you to concentrate your planting, watering, and fertilizing in a smaller space.
Hopefully by now you’re convinced that no-dig gardening is worth a try. That’s good, because you’re holding a whole book on the subject! Let’s dive in.
The Soil Wins
No-Dig Helps the Planet
Less Work for You
Easier to Maintain
No-Dig Garden Care
Now that you’ve decided on your planting scheme and have seeds coming up and transplants in the ground, you’ll have to maintain your no-dig garden. As I’ve been saying, a healthy no-dig garden bed should require less work. The fertility will be high due to the organic materials and compost you’ve been adding. Weeds are not encouraged to sprout since you aren’t turning the soil, and any weed seeds that blow into your beds can be smothered with mulch or compost, or the weeds can be snipped off when young by hand or with a sharp, flat hoe. Pests and diseases should be less prevalent due to the high fertility of your beds and the diversity of plants that you’re growing. Ahh, a perfect garden world. But the reality may be a little different, especially for transitioning or newbie no-dig gardeners.
Matching Your Pot with Your Plant
Clay is attractive and breathes, so dries it out fast. It’s fragile and breaks if left outdoors in winter in cold climates.
Grow plants that like a drier soil such as thyme, oregano, rosemary, beans, geraniums, and portulaca.
Very attractive. Holds water better than clay but dries out faster than plastic. May or may not have a drainage hole in the bottom. It will break if left outdoors in winter in cold climates.
Plant choices are similar to those for clay pots, but since it holds water better, it works well for plants that need more consistent moisture, such as basil, lettuce, coleus, and impatiens.
Very chic. This material doesn’t rust, lasts for years, and holds moisture. The soil gets very hot in full sun, so grow the right plants or provide some afternoon shade.
Grow heat-loving plants such as okra, sweet potatoes, watermelons, lantana, verbena, and hot peppers.