No Dig Kitchen Garden Step 1

Around this time of year, when the border workshop course starts I find myself telling participants that they really ought to be digging over the plot they are going to use. Over the years I’ve come to realise very few volunteers actually do this. So this year we’re not going to be doing all-over digging. Instead we’re following the No Dig method pioneered by Charles Dowding.

You can follow No Dig even if you have a lawn in place provided you can find a way to build a bed that will retain 4 – 6 inches of mulch. This cuts off light to weed seeds and roots and will eventually kill most of the weeds below. There are also other methods – these take a bit longer but don’t need as much compost. Refer to Charles Dowding’s website for details of these.

You do need to remove any woody growth like shrubs as well as brambles and docks. We’ve already done most of this so the main task on Sunday is a spread out new compost on the bed. We’re using municipal green waste compost which is about the cheapest we can find at around £80 per tonne. Buying this mulch is likely to be the most expensive item in our project. But if you have it you can use home-produced compost instead. Unless you are doing your whole garden or allotment you’ll only need a single tonne.

Photo credit Charles Downing

We are too late to sow for a full winter production schedule. Next winter you should be able to harvest, Kale, Chard, Endive, Chinese and Spring cabbage and winter herbs  but these need to be sown in July and August. But we can still sow various winter leaves – Mustard, Mizuna, Choi, Rocket and winter lettuces and we should be harvesting some leaves in early January. We’ll also be planting broad beans and garlic for harvesting in late spring.

Not everyone has a garden and the techniques were using for intensive production can be used in balcony troughs and even small window boxes. We’ll be creating a trough as well as an outside and an inside window box. As our garden is not quite ready to protect small seedling from birds (especially pigeons), we’ll be planting the seeds first of all the in the greenhouse using short sections of old guttering as seed trays. We’ll be constructing bird protection during the second session.

Whilst the kitchen garden is our first focus this year we also have to care for the Hot! border and the Oudolf Border which we nade in previous years. Tjis month there is some weeding and we will be planting out spring bulbs – this year Iris reticulata.

Photo credit: Charles Dowding

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