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No-dig gardening & weed control

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Post by Dandelion on 13th November 2017, 6:05 pm

I've put two sacks of soil improver from our local recycling centre onto one raised bed. It cost me £4, so not free, but not expensive (and it all helps to fund the  composting of the stuff I take to the tip a couple of times a year, which I can't deal with myself - cuttings from woody shrubs for instance) This seems to be an acceptable material for the no-dig system and also works fine.

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Post by freebird on 13th November 2017, 8:10 pm

I had to think long and hard about this Flobear. In the spring, I just bought 6 bags of composted stable manure from a local garden centre. Had intended to dig it in, but ended up using it for the start of the no-dig experiment. What I hadn't realised was that it is guaranteed weed-free.

I obviously wanted to keep costs down, but tbh, was too afraid of buying a trailer load from a local stable as I know there have been problems with weed killers in such manure. Did some online research and found a place about 10 miles away that specialise in compost deliveries. Assumed I would get a bulk bag cheapest, but apparently not as the transport costs are higher than delivering regular 80L sacks. Discovered that what they sell is the same as I had bought at the GC, as they supply GCs as well. I bought 30 x 80L bags for £99. Yes, quite a lot of money - but I think it is going to be worth it in increased production, much less time weeding, decreased use of weed killer and additional plant food. But mainly it's worth it because it has given me back a joy in vegetable gardening that I didn't think I would ever see again.

If you are thinking of giving it a try, look at Charles Dowding's website. There is enough on there to get you started without getting his book first.
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Post by freebird on 13th November 2017, 9:15 pm

Just read your post again FloBear and realised I didn't really answer your question. Garden compost eminently suitable, but unlikely to be anywhere near enough - also likely to contain viable weed seeds. Yes, other mulches can be used too.

I tend to keep my garden compost for using as the growing medium in my greenhouse pots.
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Post by Chilli-head on 14th November 2017, 11:09 am

I get manure by the trailer load (don't know how many L!) for £30. Sounds like relatively good value, but it is by no means weed free. This is a mix of domestic animal waste and bedding, fairly well composted. Mostly fat hen is what comes with it, and cleavers. Fortunately they are not so bad as many of the weeds I have already on the plot.

One year I got a car boot full of bags of horse manure from my work colleague who's wife has horses. Apart from the messy business of collecting by car, it also produced the finest carpet of nettles I have ever seen. I think this is not uncommon with horse manure. Perhaps the "Guaranteed weed free" is worth the extra !
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Post by freebird on 14th November 2017, 1:19 pm

Chilli-head wrote:  Perhaps the "Guaranteed weed free" is worth the extra !

It is for me, CH, though perhaps not for everybody. I did a few rough calculations and reckon that even paying that much, I should do better than break even. Overall, this year, I have probably had the best veg year I can remember. Whilst I believe it has been a good year for everybody, I don't think my results would have been as good had I not started on this no-dig. The weed free element has been particularly valuable as it allowed me more time to push forward with other parts of the veg garden, it appears to have helped discourage slugs/snails (no weeds for them to shelter under and a loose, drying top layer) - and all those things combined have kept me motivated, with a real pleasure in watching it all develop.
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Post by FloBear on 14th November 2017, 3:59 pm

Thanks for the help folks.
I will have a look at the website, freebird. A good starting point.
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Post by Ploshkin on 14th November 2017, 4:31 pm

I've been having a browse of the website and its very interesting.  I've been doing this in ignorance of the science for years.  I didn't realise that 'no dig' was also applicable to establishing beds, not just existing ones.  I think I probably still needed to dig my polytunnel beds a bit to make them as the clay was like concrete.  I only really broke up the surface and removed big rocks.
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Post by freebird on 14th November 2017, 5:32 pm

I have had to do quite a lot of digging initially, to remove perennial weeds. There are still areas that I have covered with black plastic, and others where I haven't even started - hoping to make progress over the winter on those.
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Post by freebird on 17th November 2017, 5:10 pm

At Dandelion's suggestion, I signed up for Charles Dowding's monthly email newsletter.

Just received one today, and thought this might be of interest from him:
Dig/no dig
For eleven years I have run a trial, to compare growth and harvests of the same vegetables in a dug bed and a no dig bed. I add the same amount of compost to each, as a surface mulch on the no dig bed, and in trenches of 10in/25cm depth in the dig bed.

Digging the one bed requires an extra three hours work, compared to the quicker mulching of no dig. It results in more weeds all season, while the no dig bed is almost weed free after an early hoeing of weed seedlings from the compost. Watering is more difficult on the dig bed because the surface tends to smear and cap, while water soaks easily into the compost.

Ten year’s yields from 2007-16 are 759.23kg (1674lb) from dig, and 802.80kg (1770lb) of same plantings from the no dig beds, first at Lower Farm and then Homeacres since 2013. Yields from the two Homeacres beds in the four years 2013-16 are 382.99kg dig and 399.13kg no dig. Harvests on both are trending upwards as I space the plantings more intensively.

In 2017, harvest totals (some to come) are currently for 97.7kg dig and 111.1kg no dig. Of the 13.4kg difference, almost two thirds is accounted by cucumbers which cropped 9.83kg more on no dig. Even without that figure, no dig is 5% ahead again. BBC Scotland have come to a similar conclusion at Beechgrove.




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