No Dig Gardening for Backyard Vegetables (Google / Treehugger)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Try No Dig Gardening for Your Backyard Vegetables

by Warren McLaren,
on 04. 9.09

No-Dig Gardening is such a brilliant form of home-based agriculture I was convinced the TreeHugger archives would be rich with its merits. Was very surprised when I only found one mention, in a post chronicling Leonora’s permaculture adventures in New Zealand. So I launched into the following first-person account of No-Dig, only to discover that in North America the same process might be better known as as Sheet Mulching. Nomenclature aside, it’s worth covering the topic again. Especially if you want to grow your own veggies for a little food security.

Background to Cultivation Free Farming
No-Dig Gardening can probably trace its legacy back to visionary Japanese agricultural pioneer, Fukuoka Masanobu, who embarked on his Natural Farming experiment in 1938. His very productive organic farming methods did not require extensive soil tilling, weeding, or application of synthetic pesticide or fertilizer. Best known for his 1975 book One Straw Revolution, Fukuoka Masanobu advocated returning grain and rice straw stalks to the fields as a way of enriching soil development.

American home gardener, Ruth Stout, put out a book in 1971, called the No-Work Garden Book, which echoed Fukuoka’s decades of natural farming. Ruth, though maybe lacking some of the quiet humility and philosophy of her Japanese predecessor, also promoted covering gardens in a dense layer of straw and green mulch.

In the Antipodes we had Esther Dean, who released her own book Growing Without Digging in 1977, seeding a small cult following of No Dig gardeners. And, of course, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren who refined their concept of a nature-inspired agriculture with the publication of Permaculture One in 1978.

All would champion the idea that soil quality will dramatically improve if left undisturbed by cultivating, tilling, plowing, digging etc. They believed that soil was enriched with top layers of mulch decomposing to develop the appropriate communities of worms and micro-organisms that enhance food growth. Their ideas have since been embraced even in broad acre agriculture under the guise of no-till farming (see links below).

So How Does it Work in Practice?



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.