No-Dig Garden Success
I have been trialling a new-to-me form of gardening this last year, a no-dig system where the soil is always covered with compost and mulch, and the soil itself never sees the light of day, just as the soil in a natural system like a forest is always covered up with plants and twigs and leaves and animal poop. The benefits of this system are showing themselves in the happiest crops I've seen yet in my garden. The corn is as tall as I am; actually, this is not such an achievement, as I am not very tall, but the beans behind the corn have grown off the top of their 2m tall trellis and have just kept going, and are now wrapped around each other and waving in the breeze.
Zucchinis are ridiculously prolific as are the cucumbers, both of which have to be picked daily to prevent them turning into monsters.
The tomatoes are giant, still green, but very much bigger and more lush and pest resistant than last year's crop. Also, far less weeds are growing because the mulch is depressing them. Every few weeks I do a bit of weeding then shovel on some more mulch and the weeds are starting to give up, which is rather surprising as my garden is a jungle of weeds, with the vegie garden carved out of the centre of the wilderness, so the fact that weeds are not getting a foothold here is amazing. Last summer I more or less gave up and the kingdom of weeds took over. Here is the tomato patch: small, but prolific.
Everywhere in these photos that you think you can see bare soil, you are actually looking at compost applied about 10cm thick over sheep and chook manure and some crushed rock minerals.
Here are my spring beds that I have just cleared out to replant for winter. I had to build up the sides of the beds with more bricks to fit in all the extra organic material going on top. Once upon a time I would have dug the soil over between crops, but this time, a bit of weeding, and lots of manure and compost. The compost is a reasonably woody organic compost that I had delivered and barrowed down from the street last spring.
Here were the beds in spring:
And the ones now filled with summer veg in their spring virgin state:
I covered the paths between the beds with cardboard, then pine bark mulch, which has stood up well so far to constant watering and walking with very few weeds breaking through.
One of the reasons for gardening in this way is that the soil structure remains intact, the bugs, worms and soil biome are not disturbed, and the vast webs of mycelium strands that naturally form vast colonies under the soil are allowed to do their thing. Scientists are just now discovering how important this web of fungi actually is for soil and planet health, from breaking down nutrients to make them available for plants to absorb, to underground carbon capture. Something I have noticed this summer, is that though it has been incredibly dry, still there are diverse colonies of fungi popping up all over the place, where I haven't noticed it before.
So I am quite pleased with the results of my first no-dig forest gardening experiment, and hoping to refine it and improve on it as time goes on. Do let me know if you have experimented with this type of gardening technique. I'd love to know more:)