frequently asked questions
By Charles Dowding, my answers to questions I am asked a lot. And like no dig, the answers are straightforward and make sense!
1. Leave soil undisturbed as much as is practical.
2. Feed the masses of soil life with organic matter on the surface, as happens in nature, to maintain drainage and aeration.
No dig works on all soils, including heavy clay.
Sometimes you need a spade, say, to cut out bramble roots, or make a hole for planting trees.
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Oh yes you can, and I know this contradicts much “official” advice, but these roots are not ever-living. Even in a cool compost heap, as long as new ingredients are added before any new shoots can find light, they run out of energy and expire. In a heap with some heat, they die more quickly.
At Homeacres when I arrived in winter of 2012/13, there were many roots of bindweed, couch, nettles, buttercups and docks going into the compost heap, where we had been clearing weeds off concrete paths etc. The heap never went above 40C/104F and all those roots disappeared.
Result: saving of time and more nutrients in the compost.
Likewise you can add diseased leaves to compost heaps. I add blighted plants, fruits and tubers of potatoes and tomatoes, mildewed squash leaves and rusty leek leaves. The disease spores die when the leaves they live on die. In 2018 I have super healthy leeks where I grew leeks in the past three years, with less rust this year than last.
For most weeds, it suffices to cut edges say every 3-4 weeks in the growing season, with long handled shears and/or a half moon edger, helped by mowing the ground closes to your beds, weekly if possible in the growing season.
Grass and weeds will love to grow into your fertile ground. When starting with a lot of weeds, thick cardboard along an edge is a good first step in keeping it tidy. Be sure to use wide enough pieces of cardboard to have 15cm/6in overlaps on any joins, and over weedy edges to clean beds.
If weeds start to grow through the card, say after 8 weeks or so, simply lay more cardboard around the weedy edge.