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The what, when and how of growing veg for the week ahead 🌱
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Charles dowding

No dig is great for your health, your pocket and the planet

Find all the support you need to guide you through no dig.

I have courses, books and encouragement for every step of your no dig journey. The learning resources you need are right here at your fingertips.

I’ve created a wealth of materials that break down the simplicity and beauty of no dig. So whether you prefer books, blog posts, videos or online courses you’ll be able to find what you need.

If you haven’t already, soon you’ll experience the joy of no dig gardening.

And if you are new to no dig, have a look at my ‘Beginners guide‘ below, for all the information you need to get started.

learning resources

We have many resources to help you along your no dig journey.

Three online courses, also available to buy as individual modules or lessons, as well as discounted packages  – see my course overview page for more information

13 books, a sowing timeline wall chart and a yearly calendar of vegetable sowing dates, with discounts available for multiple purchases – see this page

Afternoon, day and weekend courses at Homeacres – see this page for more information and available dates

My recommended gardening products and no dig video guides – see this page

Monthly or bi-monthly blog posts with regular seasonal no dig updates – all available to browse here

Advice on some specific aspects of no dig in the ‘Updates and Advice’ section of the website – see the homepage menu

A free twice-monthly newsletter, with no dig news, offers and advice – sign up now

A weekly advice email, covering the what, when and how of growing veg for the week ahead – subscribe now

My YouTube channel, with instructional videos on every aspect of no dig

My Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, with regular no dig updates and advice

*See this page for our latest offers and discounts to help you save.*

A beginner's guide

Why use no dig

No dig makes life easier, and plants grow more healthily, with fewer weeds.

My advice takes the mystery out of gardening, to make it timesaving, straightforward and enjoyable.  I receive many comments like this:

“We’re just now entering year two of no dig and it certainly is very enjoyable compared to past years of endless weeding and bed preparation.”

TurbineBorescope, YouTube Subscriber

A word to beginners, or even gardeners with experience: be not daunted by what you may have read elsewhere or been told by others about no dig. I read and hear a lot of nonsense! Just because someone tells you something, and they seem to know what they are talking about, it does not make it right. See my FAQ page for more understandings.

How to get started

1. Create a new, no dig bed

What size?

For a beginner, the best option is to start small with just one bed, say 1.2 x 2.4 m / 4 x 8ft. Small areas concentrate your time and resources, and make management easier. Harvests are often just as plentiful as from larger areas that are less intensively cropped.

See this video of my 1.2 x 2.1 m ‘Bed by the Shed’, which shows results of succession plantings all year.


It can simply be on top of unused grass, with the grass and weeds left in place. The mulch that will be put on top will be sufficient to smother them, with no digging needed for any soil, except a building site! The best place for growing vegetables is away from tall trees and hedges, for two reasons:

1. They suck a lot of moisture out of soil and also make it shady.

2. Overgrown areas with lots of shady leaves often host pests such as slugs.

What if my soil feels too firm?

Often soil feels firm or even hard, especially when dry, and this is fine for plants to grow in. Within the firmness is a tight structure of fine air channels and root passageways, as well as good drainage capacity. Plants root better in dense, firm soil than in soil whose loose structure offers less support to the plants above, and which loses more moisture to evaporation.

What if my soil is clay?

Even in clay, and I write this from experience, you need to trust!

At my French farm in the 1990s and at Lower Farm near Homeacres, my soil was clay, and I found that all vegetables rooted into it, with lovely harvests. And at the National Trust garden of Sissinghurst in Kent, they run a 1 acre/4000 m² no dig market garden on sticky yellow clay. It is way more successful than when they were trying to cultivate the soil.

Clay soil is great for no dig: worms and other soil life improve its structure and there is good nutrient and moisture retention.

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Vegetables growing in clay soil at Lower Farm in September 2010, which had been no dig for 11 years
What if my soil is silty or stony?

At Homeacres my soil is dense silt and everything roots into that too. In my first garden, 35 years ago, the soil was Cotswold brash, very stony, and no dig was successful there as well. Undisturbed soil develops and maintains a honeycomb structure of small air passages, especially when it is fed annually with an inch or so of compost on top.

What if my ground is uneven?

Uneven ground needs levelling. Either use a sharp spade to scrape off high bits, and put their soil into low bits. This is not ideal for the soil, but far better for your gardening in every subsequent year. Or you could buy some soil to fill the hollows. Filling them with compost is possible too but some unevenness will remain, because of how compost is eaten by soil organisms.

What if my climate is different to that in the UK?

No dig works in any climate. People all over the world and in varying climates have experienced great success with no dig – see my ‘International‘ page

How do I deal with weeds?

There are various options for dealing with weeds, depending on how many and which weeds you have, especially perennials, and how much organic matter you can source. All options involve laying mulch (a light-excluding cover, can be compost) to clear the soil of weeds through smothering/light-deprivation.

For more information on dealing with weeds, see this page, and this YouTube playlist. Also modules from my online course ‘No Dig Gardening’.

Should my bed have wooden sides?

It’s often assumed that growing in beds means you need permanent sides, but this is untrue. It’s quicker and cheaper to create open-sided beds, and they offer fewer hiding places for slugs, ants and woodlice. However, you must have weed-free paths for this to work, and absolutely no grass, which otherwise invades beds with no sides.

Temporary sides (such as old fence posts) help to keep compost-filled beds in shape for the first few months.

This module of my ‘No Dig Gardening’ online course gives detailed information on creating beds and the importance of paths.

How much compost will I need for making a new bed, and does it need to be a particular type?

The amount of compost needed will depend on the size of the bed(s) – see this link for a depth calculator of compost – and also on the quantity/type of weeds.

If there are many weeds and you want to grow vegetables or flowers immediately, you will need 10-15 cm/4-6 in compost (once trodden down). If the ground is not weedy, you can start with as little as 5 cm/2 in compost.

The compost can have some lumps in and you do not need to sieve it. It can be any of animal manure that has been stacked for six months or more, your own compost, municipal or mushroom compost, leaf mould etc. It  For more information on compost, see this page, and this YouTube playlist.

When is a good time to start?

You can start at any time! There’s always something you can do whatever the weather and throughout the seasons. The sooner you start learning and taking steps the sooner you’ll see results.

How do I make a new bed(s)?

This partly depends on how many weeds you have but the process is straightforward. Simply lay down a light-excluding mulch (eg cardboard) and then cover with your desired or available amount of compost. If you have many vigorous perennial weeds you may need to lay compost and then a polythene/membrane cover on top of that – see ‘Dealing with Weeds’.

You may or may not want to use temporary wooden sides to hold the compost in place. You do need to mulch any pathways around and between the new bed(s). The most common and easiest much for this is cardboard, held down with either a very thin layer of woody material in small pieces, or compost.

That’s it!

To watch me create a new bed using cardboard and compost, see this video – ‘Start out no dig’.

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1. Homeacres when I arrive in winter 2012-13 – three five-tonne loads of well rotted cow manure are ready for spreading
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2. March 2013 – bed preparation varied as I tried different methods; mostly I laid 15 cm/6 in of well decomposed organic matter on the weeds
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3. May 2013 – growth has started well in the compost; wooden sides are mostly temporary and the path weeds are covered with cardboard which decomposes in situ and never needs removing
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4. June 2013 – many harvests already, and plants are now rooting into the soil below as weeds are mostly dead, though some perennials still need a trowel; the paths have new cardboard

2. Start planting

With no dig, you can plant straight into compost, so a new bed is ready for planting as soon as it has been made. For this reason, I advise having some plants ready in order to maximise growing time.

This applies even if you have laid down cardboard under the compost – your new plantings can grow in the compost while the weeds die under the cardboard. Then the cardboard softens within three months and plants can root into the soil.

I raise the large majority of my plants from seed, in a propagating space under cover, and then transplant these rooted plants into the ground. Although it requires less of your time to sow directly into the soil, growth starts later. Then it takes longer and there is often more pest damage, resulting in later harvests and empty spaces.

I therefore recommend that you learn some basics about propagation, so you can raise healthy seedlings at home. This extends the growing season and keeps your bed(s) full.

There is a wealth of information on sowing and propagating on my YouTube channel – see this playlist, and also in ‘Updates and Advice’, found on the homepage. My Sowing Timeline shows my recommendations for sowing times throughout the year.

3. Develop new skills

Once you have created a bed/beds and sown some seeds, it’s then time to enjoy watching your plants grow!

I would now recommend learning the basic skills of weeding, watering and pest protection before moving on to skills such as harvesting methods and succession planting. My ‘Skills for Growing’ book and online course cover all these, and some exciting new possibilities too.

My YouTube channel also has videos covering these topics, and I have created a playlist with a range of videos chosen specifically to help those who are new to no dig – ‘No Dig for Beginners‘.

And lastly, some advice on tools and equipment

When creating a new no dig bed, a wheelbarrow for transporting compost is useful, as is as a shovel for moving the compost and a rake for levelling. Plus cardboard and compost (and polythene/membrane if your weeds require that), and maybe temporary wooden sides. See this ‘Tools and Techniques‘ video for further information.

For propagation you will need potting compost (also called multipurpose), a module tray and some seeds (see the ‘Seeds and Varieties’ page for my recommendations).

The compost/materials for propagation that you can buy are of highly variable quality. I wish you success in finding a good one because it can be demoralising when you are sold a product which is not fit for purpose. Please don’t blame yourself if this happens but send a message to the manufacturer and then try a different compost. Often the problem is that the compost is still maturing/ripening, a process which takes nutrients from your plants. After 2–3 months it can start to grow decent plants, so it’s a good idea to buy compost in advance!

For transplanting, a dibber is really useful but is not essential. Likewise a trowel, for transplanting larger plants, planting seed potatoes and removing roots of some perennial weeds.

For watering, a watering can and/or hose is needed. Look for a fine rose which is good for watering seedlings, and a rose with larger holes for watering your beds.

For weather and pest protection, I recommend investing in some fleece/mesh covers – see this video for more information.

I give more information on tools and their uses in this video, and links to recommended gardening products can be found on this page.

I wish you every success with your growing, and hope you enjoy plentiful harvests using these no dig methods 🌱

Charles standing in his garden