Spending two days away from the computer, picking, exploring his market garden and chatting about all things veg related with Charles was amazing, not only learning loads about growing but also great thinking space. Like a micro sabbatical.
The end of last week I helped @charlesdowding pick, wash and bag all this amazing salad. So many amazing different leaves for various customers including @at_the_chapel and @hauserwirth in #bruton. Really made me appreciate the amount of work that goes into a local organic bag of leaves #charlesdowding #salad #leaves #marketgarden #vegetables #greens #knowyourfarmer #farmer #grower #growers
I’ve learnt loads of little techniques from Charles that are invaluable, such as not cleaning pots every Autumn (not that I’d ever done that), it’s just one of those Victorian myths. The main thing he advocates is the ‘no dig’ method. He’s written books about it, and he does talks and courses, as I mentioned. So if you want to know about it more in depth, then whisk your mouse to his website.
I’m, however, going to just give you a quick intro into No Dig. It has some serious advantages:
1/ For people who like quicker results, it massively cuts down on the amount of work you have to do, moving some compost vs hours of digging. When I first got into gardening I wrote a blog post about digging and double digging. The main thing that came out of the post was that my back hurt. So unless for some sadistic reason you like digging, then by virtue the no dig method is for you.
2/ Productivity greatly improves. I can definitely attest to this, as I actually have some beds which as basically just mud, I didn’t even dig them last winter. At the very least, you’ll notice no difference in yield, with far less work.
3/ The soil even looks richer, blacker and more humous like, which is quite aesthetically pleasing.
4/ And the best thing of all, is little or no weeding. Digging just churns and chops up weeds, but no dig means you eliminate weeds and then it’s easier just to lightly hoe or pick out weeds as you go.
Charles has some dig/ no dig experiment beds, we dug up some parsnips from each bed. The no dig is on the right of the photo below.
The no dig parsnips came out cleaner, we weighed them and they were much heavier, they’re longer too. Also compare 3 hours digging vs 1 hour spreading compost.
The technique is pretty simple. Charles’ beds were made on lawn and he just put down some cardboard (minus the tape) to block the sun to the weeds and grass beneath. Then you add about 3 inches of well rotted compost – I’ve made the mistake of not compacting this down enough – so make sure you really stomp it down, the denser the better to block all the light. Then you can add some finer compost on top to plant or sow into. Then, subsequently, you just add about an inch of compost every Autumn to keep the nutrients up.
I’ve got a bed that I’m making where a redundant patio was. My plan is to fill this with compost about now, to start growing in the spring. I might add some green manure. I’ll need about 10 tons of compost, which is proving quite a mission to have delivered cheaply. I’ll definitely update you on this, but there are plenty of horse stables about the place where you can raid their supply. I’ve had success taking some bags and filling it myself. This is easy for topping up, but for 10 tons… I’m having to rethink.
So for a few days I was transported away from marketing and graphics and able to think about something more, well real. I love working with the earth, and being outside. I think the outdoors really helps with creativity and regaining perspective on life.