'No Dig' is an approach to growing that produces healthier plants and fewer weeds, with less work! If that sounds too good to be true, it isn't: 'No Dig' pioneer Charles Dowding has been doing a 'dig' and 'No Dig' side-by-side trial for decades, with remarkable results – check out his Youtube, Instagram, or website.
So why is this the case? Essentially 'No Dig' works with nature rather than against it – by honouring the many living systems that are integral to the health of the soil (including mycorrhizal fungi, earthworm burrows, soil microbes, living root systems, and all of the complex and dynamic relationships happening just below the surface). And healthier soil grows healthier plants. Every time we dig we disrupt and 'reset' these systems and relationships, often creating the very problems we were trying to solve by digging.
For example in undisturbed soil plants are better able to weather drought because they form relationships with the miles and miles of mycorrhizal fungi which are able to access moisture in much smaller nooks and crannies and over much greater distances than roots. Also undug soil has a better structure and more life happening – for every 1% extra of organic matter in the soil, it can hold 20,000L more water per acre.
So what does 'No Dig' mean? Simple: don't 'turn over' the soil to prepare a bed; instead build from the soil surface upwards (using compost, cardboard, straw, or any other organic matter), and plant into that. The point is to exclude light from the soil surface, burying grass, weeds, and weed seeds. If you do your work well initially, year on year it requires only a light surface dressing of compost (~5cm) in the autumn, and the health of the soil builds cumulatively!
You can grow anything you want using 'No Dig' – with this method it's still OK to open the soil to plant your seedlings!
If in doubt, remember to try to disturb the soil as little as possible. Lay cardboard over the weeds and cover it with compost (to at least 10-15cm depth ideally). You can plant through the cardboard if you need to.
More info coming soon...