Reconceptualising no-dig gardening as low-water gardening

HomeForumsNo dig gardeningPreparing the groundReconceptualising no-dig gardening as low-water gardening

This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Neilfrazerm 5 days, 15 hours ago.

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    During this summer we had the sum total of 4 good days of rain in SE London. That is, the period from 28th May, through to now.
    Reflecting on the no-dig in my second year, I consider this practice now to be absolutely essential, especially as my allotment rules only allow watering by use of watering cans.
    Most allotments around me are empty, and will remain so until April or May next year, but I am (rather smugly) walking away each day from my two plots with enough for myself and my neighbours every other day. I am still harvesting salads, radish, mooli, broccoli, cabbage, autumn rasps, physalis, carrots and the oca and sweet potatoes are still growing.

    I feel that with the concerns in the news about global warming being ramped up, no-dig gardening could possibly get more traction if it was called low-water gardening.



    This is an impressive tale Nail, thanks for sharing.
    I should be interested to know the rainfall totals, if you know anyone with a rainguage. I encourage anyone to keep records, it’s fascinating.
    And this is exciting, a new name for no dig!



    Hi Charles, I sort of felt you would (kindly) ask to see the evidence. I shall ask about, but not sure if anyone does keep records. I may start myself yet!



    Hi Neil and Charles on the subject of watering I would like to tell what I do at home.
    I have had an automatic watering system set up which initially was used for my hanging baskets and wall troughs you can vary the timings and duration of the watering to suit the weather conditions.
    This year I have set up raised beds for growing at home following Charles’s no dig method with great success.
    But what I found using the 4mm piping the water was short at the end of the run, so I put a dual feed on the tap put extra tubing joining at the end to form a ring main it has given a more consistant flow of water to all points now.
    I find that it is sufficiant to keep the soil nice and moist.



    My allotment is in the Ouse valley of Cambridgeshire where it’s been even drier. Until the deluge of Sunday we’d had practically nothing significant for months: even the forecast rain for Saturday last week turned out to be just fine drizzle. To make matters worse the soil there is sandy. Most of the allotmenteers around me seem to have given up for this year complaining about lack of water on site. Due to time constraints I only managed to construct two 120 x 240 cm (4’x 8’) raised beds, the rest is under mypex. I was happy with early growth until the resident mole(s) moved into the beds. Every single plant has been pushed up at least twice, mostly much more, but in spite of this on Saturday I was still able to take away small harvests of golf ball size beetroot, two courgettes, runner beans, and baby carrots. (The mole had pushed up the rest of the carrots – again – but I’ll just keep my fingers crossed). I have been watering the beds with a watering can during the very dry spells.

    I will extent the no-dig system to the rest of the plot when I have time. I am a great advocate and love the idea of it, but for me, I never find it to be the unqualified success I want. I have had three different allotment plots on different sites in the last few years and keep finding that raised beds + compost = (presumably) worms = moles. It’s so frustrating, particularly when the people around me with ‘conventional’ plots don’t seem to be troubled by them and just smirk or laugh when they see my precious plants uprooted yet again. Still, I’ll persevere. I fully believe it to be the way to go.



    Jan this sounds frustrating, and it’s not only no-diggers who have moles. However we do offer them lovely food and conditions.
    Funnily enough I noticed a huge new molehill yesterday, not sure what happens next.
    Yes no dig has to be the way to go, all these things to consider, glad your results are good.



    Hi Jan, really interesting comments. Yes, East Anglia is, according to the Met. Office a bit dryer than SE England. Your weather records are here:
    I do not have an answer regarding moles, as my allotment is well within suburbia and the surrounding area is too built up. I guess your no-dig approach means more bacteria, thus mose shredders and nematodes, therefore more worms and more moles!
    The RHS offers some non-lethal methods of moving them elsewhare at

    In the meantime I am going to try 2 new methods to retain even more moisture next year.
    The first is really deep beds of compost for potatoes so I can pull them out when harvesting, and not, as I had to do this year, dig them out, which resulted in mixing the compost layer with the soil. I believe this led to wicking the moisture out of the bed.
    The second is adding a really good dose (4″ to 6″) of extra woodchip to the paths between my beds as I find it helps to retain moisture. This is especially the case after summer thunderstorms. My paths therefore, effectively become a water reservoir. The photo shows water pooling on the surface of the soil under the woodchips a few days after a downpour. I am on silt, but the paths are well compacted from at least 10 years of being trampled on…

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