No Dig Growing at the Allotment

The No-Dig is exactly 'what it says on the tin'. Time saving and easier to manage so that you can enjoy your vegetable growing without the back breaking labour. Not only that, it doesn't disturb soil structure, the weeds decompose into the ground along with the organic matter (compost and/or manure). Dug over soil is more open and can dry out easily and offers less support to plants.

If you're new to No Dig, you can start with a small area to see how you feel about it before taking it further.  Choose an ioe area away from shady trees and their root systems; nice and flat but you can fill in any dips with any mounded parts. 

To begin with mark out your area and cover it with cardboard or similar biodegradable weed suppression, it might be that you want to make the area weed-free to start with but it's not necessary as you can layer the surface and then add compost on top before planting out. 


No Dig doesn't have to mean raised beds although this is a popular option and is especially useful for those that are less mobile. You may want to do a ground level bed and add a border. It's important to create surrounding paths that are mulched, suppressed of weeds - You can use bark, woodchips, stones and more bt plenty of it. Grassy borders can cause issues with the bed itself.

You will need a decent amount of compost before planting and then you may wish to also add mulch dependent on what you're growing and the level of weeds - If its really dense with weeds you may want to layer it up more so.

You can start preparing your beds any time of year. The cardboard will rot into the soil and in the meantime kill off weeds and then allow your plants to root down into the soil. Your beds and bordering paths will require a regular top up of compost and mulch.

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Bed by the Shed 10th May 2022 


You can make beds on top of any grass and weeds, which you leave in place. The mulch that will be put on top is sufficient to smother existing growth, with no digging needed.

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.
  2. Shady leaves reduce light, and host pests such as slugs.

What if my soil feels too firm?

Good soil naturally feels firm, or even hard, especially when dry, and this is fine for plants to grow in. Within the firmness is an enduring 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 their stems.

Plus since 2014, my Three-Strip Trial has shown an 8% reduction in harvests from the strip where soil is forked to loosen it. I suspect this is from the mycelial network being broken.

What if my soil is clay?

No dig is a brilliant method for clay soil. At my French farm in the 1990s and at Lower Farm near Homeacres up to 2012, my soil was clay, and I found that all vegetables gave lovely harvests. 

Likewise at the National Trust garden of Sissinghurst in Kent, they run a 1 acre/4000m² no dig market garden on sticky yellow clay. It is way more successful for less time needed, compared to 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.


Homeacres when I arrive in winter 201213three five-tonne loads of well rotted cow manure are ready for spreading

  1. March 2013bed preparation varied as I tried different methods; mostly I laid 15 cm/6 in of well decomposed organic matter on the weeds.
  1. 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.