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Mit første no-dig bed...

My first no-dig garden

Let me start by saying that I am a total beginner and know almost nothing about the no-dig method, and that it was not the plan to make a no-dig bed😊 It happened a bit by chance.

No-dig is, in a very simple explanation, to grow without digging in the soil, so you protect the micro life in the soil which can then work to create good conditions for growing - So healthy soil - You work only in the soil surface and put e.g. compost etc. on top instead of ploughing, sowing, harrowing and digging.

It may seem frivolous to share these thoughts widely, since it is not my core competence, but the way I grow is, and always has been, to experiment, and if I only threw myself into experimentation once I had thoroughly immersed myself in the theory, I would not learn so quickly (both from my successes and my mistakes). But anyway, I kind of fell into the no-dig method by accident by just thinking logically... Let me try to explain

For the last few years I have been growing vegetables in a striped bed (that is, a bed divided into strips) 100cm wide. It has worked ok, but 1) the stripes are too wide to stand with a leg on each side, 2) the weed pressure has been too high - especially the mercury grass, which requires you to dig very deep to get the roots out and 3) the soil has been too clay and depleted. This means that I have had relatively low yields on many of my vegetables considering how much work I have put in.

I decided, mainly because of the mercury grass, to establish a whole new vegetable garden in the "established field" where vegetables and grain has been grown for the last 100 years. It has been pesticide and fertilizer free for about 2 years now.

To get started I've had horse manure spread, the soil raked and tilled (so no no-dig there). As my experience was that 100cm wide strips were too wide I have made them 75cm in the new bed and only 8m long instead of 10. That way they are easier to survey. I have also "poked holes" in the plough layer with a wide grab - that is, the compacted soil that lies 20-30cm below the surface.

When I grow 1000sqm of beds with a high weed pressure, my logical thought was to minimize the weeds' chance to germinate. So I had the idea to cover the spaces between the strips with wood chips - We have cut down a lot of big trees this spring, so it will be completely fresh wood chips. At the same time, I had good experience from an experiment last summer with putting grass clippings on top of the soil where it's not in use (e.g. between pumpkins, potatoes and corn), so the weeds have a harder time coming up. The grass I picked up from local citizens in Ejby on a regular basis and it also feeds worms and other microorganisms as it decomposes on the ground.

Originally the idea was that the woodchips could simply be tilled down at the end of the season and incorporated into the soil structure, but as the ideas tumble around in my head I'm starting to hope that I can keep the weeds at bay and just put new compost, chicken manure, horse manure, woodchips and some natural lime on top of my beds over the season or into the winter months so that I can continue growing in my strips and can avoid having to till it all up every winter.

I'm starting to see the beauty in the simplicity and logic of no-dig and hopefully in time I'll have a bed with a very low weed pressure = a very low labour input. Once that is achieved perhaps the garden can be expanded and there is capacity to grow more.

Fortunately, there seems to be very little mercury grass in the new bed, but I am struggling a bit with chaff, which is also completely impossible to dig up. But I'm hopeful, because @charles Dowding (No dig's uncrowned king) says that all weeds have an expiry date, if you just make sure to keep them down long enough 😊

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