Author Topic: No dig or not no gig?  (Read 1129 times)

Plot69

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 854
  • Lincolnshire
No dig or not no gig?
« on: September 27, 2018, 19:12:42 »
Does rotavating to a depth of about 8 inches, spread a good thick layer of cow manure on top and then rotavating that all in count as no dig? My new virgin plot up until last year has been ploughed and cultivated for arable crops for 100's of years and I honestly can't see the point in digging it with hand tools. If it were a previously used but neglected wilderness I could understand it but it's not.
 
Tony.

Sow it, grow it, eat it.

Allotments 4 All

No dig or not no gig?
« on: September 27, 2018, 19:12:42 »

Obelixx

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,141
  • Vendée, France
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2018, 20:37:59 »
Beechgrove BBC Scotland on Thursday or BBC2 on Sunday morning) has been doing trials of traditional dig and no dig on their beds.  They recently compared crops and found that yields were higher and of a more consistent size on no dig except for beetroot where one of the beets on the no dig got very excited and grew huge.

If you go to the website you can download factsheets.

Seems to me it's a no brainer once you've cleared a plot of deep rooted weeds - less back-breaking for the gardener and less damage to beneficial organisms such as worms, insects and micro-organisms that help with soil fertility.

Obxx - Vendée France

Beersmith

  • Acre
  • ****
  • Posts: 364
  • Duston, Northampton. Loam / sand.
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2018, 20:52:40 »
What's in a name? As Shakespeare put it, " a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". It doesn't really matter what you call it.

I think the issue here is would it work?  The only possible problem I can think of is if the ground was badly compacted, as this would create a thinnish loose layer over a solid base. But from your description of the plot it seems unlikely. Why not test dig a few very spots down to 15 inches to check? No signs of compaction? Go for it!!

The only other caution about rotavating is if you have a lot of perennial weeds. It just chops them up and makes the weed problem worse. But that is easily checked too.  Good luck!

Not mad, just out to mulch!

ancellsfarmer

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,017
  • Plot is London clay, rich in Mesozoic fossils
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2018, 08:02:10 »
As a third season convert to No-dig, I would make the following observations.
With 'clean' ground, you have the perfect opportunity. An arable field with a known cultivation history, typically farmed 'conventionally' will have topsoil thickness of maybe 10", or so. It may have been within a rotation of 5 seasons, cereals for 3, rape or other break crop for 2 . It will likely been sprayed for weeds, insects, fungi as 'required'.
 Much arable land has been 'mined' for carbon,ie more taken out than put in.
My thoughts would be to progressively build up the organic content with as much material* as you can lay hands on. I would dig test pits at intervals (1 in each corner?)to determine the soil profile, going down to subsoil/ base rock or 450mm to determine any compaction/aenorobic(blue) layers. Consider its drainage. Notice/count the number of earthworms you find in each hole.
Level off any ridges/furrows and fill in the holes!
Ideally 3" layer of organic material over all, or as much as you can do 1st year. Get it on before Christmas. Cover with polysheet/tarp to suppress any weed seedlings. Organise a compost area. Retreat for winter.
No dig is ideal. It prevents you bringing to the surface by rotovating or digging,  that buried seedbank of weeds and previous crop.
When you withdraw the cover, you will have a surface ready for transplanting from modules/pots your intended crop. If , later in season, (May) you wish to sow seeds directly, rake aside the (diminished) layer and continue. Remove any weeds before they get through the layer. Each year 'top up' with a further 1" or so of 'material'*
Use the time/energy not digging to source/process 'material' to compost.
I heartily recommend Charles Dowdings website and books.
See :
charlesdowding.co.uk
*material would be any/all types of manure, compost,plant waste, composted woodchip,coffee grounds, spent hops,cardboard, straw, preferably composted together and 'aged'.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2018, 08:21:53 by ancellsfarmer »
Freelance cultivator qualified within the University of Life.

picman

  • Acre
  • ****
  • Posts: 326
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2018, 08:49:47 »
Totally bonkers , who can cover 177 sq m with 3" compost  ...even if raised beds ( which attract slugs and other pests by the way )

Tee Gee

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,333
  • Huddersfield - Light humus rich soil
    • The Gardener's Almanac
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2018, 09:00:06 »
Here is my slant on the subject which is very similar to AF & BS

http://www.thegardenersalmanac.co.uk/Content/A/Allotments/Allotment%20Intro.htm

ancellsfarmer

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,017
  • Plot is London clay, rich in Mesozoic fossils
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2018, 14:53:21 »
Totally bonkers , who can cover 177 sq m with 3" compost  ...even if raised beds ( which attract slugs and other pests by the way )

I did
13cubic metres
Bonkers,maybe ,
but it works!

Freelance cultivator qualified within the University of Life.

Plot69

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 854
  • Lincolnshire
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2018, 18:07:33 »
I dug a bed 6.5x4 meters and it was easy digging not compacted at all. This is what prompted me to stop digging and think about the no dig method. There are no weeds, no grass roots, no twitch, couch, nettles or anything else whatsoever so rotavating isn't a problem. And included in the councils part of the contract is to deliver copious amounts of farmyard manure. For how long it is to continue I'm not sure but a fresh 40 ton steaming load of finest bovine appeared Saturday morning. Apart from all the barrowing involved, covering my 225sq Yd plot wasn't hard.

Think I'm going to experiment with no dig for a while, at on part of my plot. It'll be fun if nothing else.

And I've been glued to Charles Dowding's channel, fascinating stuff.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2018, 18:09:06 by Plot69 »
Tony.

Sow it, grow it, eat it.

Beersmith

  • Acre
  • ****
  • Posts: 364
  • Duston, Northampton. Loam / sand.
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2018, 20:02:53 »
Your description makes it sound like an allotment paradise!

I'm a conventional type, so don't have any experience of no dig methods.

But over the years I have observed a few issues with heavy use of manure. One is carrots producing heavily forked roots. Another is that with heavy manure onions often grow to huge sizes but then keep very badly. Open question - Are there some recognised methods to avoid these problems.
Not mad, just out to mulch!

picman

  • Acre
  • ****
  • Posts: 326
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2018, 07:20:14 »
Could not get a truck of any size near my plot also mares tail woulds love no dig ,,,, perhaps horses for courses  ?

squeezyjohn

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,013
  • Oxfordshire - Sandy loam on top of clay
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2018, 11:09:58 »
No dig really does work.  But its name is misleading in that many people think "hooray this will be easier" ... whereas in reality there is just as much work involved as Ancellsfarmer suggests.  The work goes in making, procuring and physically moving the compost, manure and mulch which you need to feed the soil and stop weed seeds from sprouting, however you don't have the work of weeding and digging.  In my experience most crops are happier in the undisturbed, not walked on soil of no-dig beds, but I'm pretty sure potatoes prefer the digging method and give better crops that way.

Tee Gee

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,333
  • Huddersfield - Light humus rich soil
    • The Gardener's Almanac
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2018, 14:46:04 »
I agree with John

Quote
In my experience most crops are happier in the undisturbed, not walked on soil of no-dig beds, but I'm pretty sure potatoes prefer the digging method and give better crops that way.

Many years ago I used to follow the 'TV Pundits' and plant out stuff at rather wide spacings.  Now I use narrow beds that I never walk on other than when I am digging/ preparing them for the following season. Another benefit from the closer spacings is less light gets between the plants meaning the weeds between the plants are starved of light, plus the plant support each other e.g Sprouts!

Then when you think about the system I use I am not a million miles away from the "no-dig" system e.g. I add compost but I dig it in rather than leaving it on top.I do not walk on the beds, and my plants keep most of the weeds at manageable levels.

Most of the no-dig beds I have seen often suffer from weed infestations brought about various annual seeds that have not been killed off in the composting process.

So in my opinion after over forty years of allotmenteering : a plot only gives out a crop commensurate with the effort you put in to it! So as they say in Yorkshire "Nout in-Nout Out" So in my opinion choose what way you prepare and look after your plot there will; always be hard work involved. If you don't then it is as I mentioned previously: "Nout in-Nout Out"

I rest my case! :icon_cheers:

Digeroo

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 9,383
  • Cotswolds - Gravel - Alkaline
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2018, 15:35:00 »
I certainly do not dig in manure now.  Got caught by weedkiller.  It is on the surface now well away from roots.  The worms seem to be able to tell, and so not touch contaminated stuff.  Then if there are problems at least you can rake it off.

I like no dig, but for me the problem is stinging nettles, I still have not got a handle on how to get rid of them with no dig.   Three inches of manure or recycled compost and they think it is all their dreams have come true.  I tried weedkiller but this simply set them back for a few months, come the following spring they sprung.

On advantage of no dig is that you do not bring up the stones and gravel from below.  I am currently muck spreading it is hard work.

I do not have an issue with annual weeds.  I actually like fat hen it provides a good deal of material for mulching if caught before it gets too big.   The only things I find that come through the composting process are fat hen, goose grass (cleavers) and tomatoes.  It is simply a hoeing job.   Cleavers, you just have to time when you get the compost.   I do not like autumn (cleavers) or spring (weedkiller from lawns)

I am next to a traditional allotmenteer, he is gradually digging through his plot before winter, while mine is still full of plants, with some areas covered by green manure.  We both get good results.   But we both put is a good deal of effort.  I agree with TG nout in nout out.  Though we have one plot holder who seems to put in effort and still gets very little out.  I do not like his technique at all.

I watered my potatoes, I do not think I would have got anything if I had not. 

ACE

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,667
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2018, 16:01:03 »
Nothing lost following the no dig preparation because if it does not work a good dig over and you have a very good traditional base to get on with. I rather enjoy an hour or two on the spade. I have had a couple of hours this morning decouching my asparagus bed, In the sunshine knelt on my kneeler steady old plod through the bed and came away satisfied and hungry for a well earned bacon roll. Each to their own, the main thing is enjoy it.

Paulh

  • Acre
  • ****
  • Posts: 298
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2018, 08:34:01 »
"I like no dig, but for me the problem is stinging nettles, I still have not got a handle on how to get rid of them with no dig." Is it taking "no-dig" too literally if you can't dig them out?

"Each to their own, the main thing is enjoy it." So true!

Plot69

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 854
  • Lincolnshire
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2018, 18:12:58 »
Not sure what happened to my previous post?
Tony.

Sow it, grow it, eat it.

pumpkinlover

  • Global Moderator
  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,027
  • Chesterfield. Sandstone.
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2018, 07:15:33 »
"I like no dig, but for me the problem is stinging nettles, I still have not got a handle on how to get rid of them with no dig." Is it taking "no-dig" too literally if you can't dig them out?

"Each to their own, the main thing is enjoy it." So true!

I haven't read up on no dig but I don't see it as an dictate like that. To me it means dig out a perennial deep rooted weed. Dig up your potatoes.
Just don't dig over the entire plot  as a matter of routine. That's my take anyway.



brownthumb2

  • Half Acre
  • ***
  • Posts: 186
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2018, 16:05:59 »
 No I don't think it does  but might be wrong my impression of no dig is to keep putting layers of compost manure on top and leaving the worms to do the digging  but if rotivating works for you and your soil type why go no dig your plot your way

Plot69

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 854
  • Lincolnshire
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #18 on: October 03, 2018, 09:56:59 »
Previous post still not showing, how odd. Anyway, I got it all set out, rotavated and pretty well covered in the finest bovine excrement. I'm not going to stick rigidly to the no dig ideal, I'm just going to dig as little as possible unless I think it really needs it. It'll be regularly rotavated though. Here's a little tour after 10 days.

 https://youtu.be/j0tfpS0EG3w
Tony.

Sow it, grow it, eat it.

Digeroo

  • Hectare
  • *****
  • Posts: 9,383
  • Cotswolds - Gravel - Alkaline
Re: No dig or not no gig?
« Reply #19 on: October 03, 2018, 11:24:20 »
Rotavating is not no dig.  I thought the idea of no dig is not to disturb the soil.  I prefer digging to rotavating. 

Liked your tour, I would have left a bed without manure for the roots.  What is the stuff on the paths?

I certainly dig out nettles no other way, but then it is not no dig any more.


 

anything