The Lifestyle Magazine of Kent, Surrey & Sussex

Do you dig it?

Do you dig it?


Is it best to leave “digging” to Mother Nature?, let the little ones have fun outside, fashion trends in the garden, plus diary date and jobs to do

Garden forks and spades are made for digging, and soil is there to be turned over, right? Not necessarily – and certainly not, if you happen to be a follower of the ‘no dig’ system of gardening. It is, as it sounds,a form of gardening without digging. Instead of disturbing the soil, the ‘no dig’ system saves time and effort by encouraging natural processes to perform to your advantage.

Given a little time, undisturbed soil develops a healthy aerated structure, which enables plants to grow easily. The fertility of a ‘no dig’ soil system for growing vegetables and other plants is built from the top down. This mimics an entirely natural process whereby animal excretion and vegetable matter is deposited on the surface and gradually works its way downwards.

Worms and soil fauna do the job of forks – they aerate the soil as they pull down the goodness from the top and because they are making very little disturbance, the soil doesn’t lose moisture as it does when wrestled by a fork. This is not rocket science, more like a return to the roots of soil management. Beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria are prolific in a ‘no-dig’ system and these help plant roots to find nutrients and moisture. It can be seen as a way for plants to immediately plug into a well-established, healthy community of living organisms in the soil, all of which are beneficial to each other.

There are many more advantages too, not least in output. Vegetables tend to grow more strongly and are healthier, while root vegetables come out of the ground more cleanly. Harvests are greater, carbon is left undisturbed in the soil and there are enormous time savings.

What’s more, gardening takes far less effort and there are fewer weeds! What’s not to love about deciding not to dig?

Back to the land

Paul Lovatt Smith has been practising the ‘no dig’ system for several years and he has no doubt that it’s the best way. He is, after all, a geologist who has a perfect understanding of the structure that lies beneath our feet. Living and working in East Sussex, Paul is an active member of the Small Farm Training Group (SFTG), which meets regularly at the Mohair Centre, Chiddingly, near Lewes.

The group encourages members to improve their skills in horticulture, smallholding and farming, and they are enthusiasts who want to care for their land, livestock and equipment in the most efficient and professional way. There are many courses available on a wide range of topics, including beekeeping, raising pigs and sheep, lambing, keeping poultry, cheese-making, hay-making, first aid and even water dowsing.

Members support each other in many different ways – by exchanging ideas, going on outings and, of course, enjoying social interaction.
There are currently around 250 members around Kent and East Sussex, and anyone can join, whether they garden a simple window box or run their own small farm.

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