No dig beds

  • Manure added

  • Mulching the paths

  • No dig beds

After what felt like a long time clearing the space for the new no dig beds on the allotment, I’m pleased (and so is my back!) that two of the beds are now fully made. My main veg ‘patch’ consists of one big rectangle, and within will contain four 8ft by 4ft beds, with 1ft paths around the edge and 2ft paths across the middle cross sections.
Ideally this preparation would have been completed during autumn or winter or at latest early spring, but alas, I only got the allotment in February, and progress was rather slow initially due to the weather. But with the recent spell of bright and sunny weather, it enabled me to speed up the process more. The full area is now cleared of turf, and (hopefully!) most of the dock, dandelion and creeping buttercup dug out and masses of stone and rubble are now removed too. Much of the area had to be double dug, something of which I’m not planning to repeat in the future, as aiming to explore Charles Dowdings’ approach with No Dig growing for the vegetable beds.

I decided on possibly the longer route to achieve the beds, of clearing and digging through including the path areas surrounding, rather than creating raised beds and mulching on top with a greater depth of manure, as there was so much dock and other delights in the soil, and also in heavy rains the compaction meant that the soil was often soaked. Possibly in the future, I may well raise up the beds with planks alongside the pathed areas and further mulch on top, but felt that this was a good way to clean the beds as best as possible for their new start, and plan in autumn to add another good layer of manure to keep improving the soil.

It was Bank Holiday weekend, and the weather has been glorious the past week or so, but with looming rain forecast for the following week, I decided to halt the double digging for the whole area having got a good foot into beds two and three areas and decided to cover those up temporarily with some fine membrane and beneath that some sheets of cardboard. (not only did the potential rain decide this, but also a flourishing number of flowering dandelions in the vicinity around the extremities of the lottie plots!)

I marked out the areas with leftover old timber posts for where the corners of the beds will be and then cleared on the dug area the new paths for the cross sections and surrounds. As the soil had sadly been pretty much brutalised from the clearing process I hoed in some spare leftover vegetable compost to at least provide a little structure to begin once again in the soil until the worms and other matter from the mulching draw their way down.

After wetting the newly formed beds, it was time for the ‘mega mulching’ to commence. A while back I’d got ten large sacks of rotted cow manure from a local farm. I used to obtain manure from the farm some years ago, which I used to use regularly for my old garden to dig in to the vegetable plots annually.
I used five sacks in all between the two beds enabling a good mulch cover of a good couple of inches throughout. No doubt these new beds will need a little hoeing in the coming weeks to help break down further some of the clusters of manure and attack the seedlings that no doubt will appear after being stacked down at the farm. The manure was moist when it went on, and full of worms too, so the friendly allotment robin ‘helped’ with the mulching, popping down for a quick scurry along the beds to collect a few worms and insects for its young back in the nearby nest.

Once the bed areas were mulched fully, I used a couple of sacks of Eco-sci’s West Country Compost soil conditioner on the path areas to give a fine mulch of just a couple of centimetres. This hopefully will help not only with enhancing the soil structure and help to suppress weeds but also prevent the dispersal of mud underfoot should it be a wet day for plot inspections.

I have to admit, it was quite satisfying to see the end result and am hoping that by experimenting with the no dig approach, it’ll help to create a vibrant and fertile soil, as well as reduce the need for watering as the site is quite exposed to both wind and sun. I’m planning on the leaving the beds for a couple of weeks to settle before planting (these beds are for the potato and roots and onion beds on my planned rotation) if my youngsters back at home can hold out just a little longer.

Now, the next bit commences of returning to clearing the next area ready for mulching and creating the paths for beds three and four. Am feeling the urgency now it’s May to get these beds fully prepared and begin to get planting as soon as able for my first crops.

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