Yesterday, when the sun came out unexpectedly (at least for me and the BBC forecast), I made a short visit to see the plot. Last time it had been frozen solid and it was difficult to tell what it was like under the icy glitter. In the warmer sunlight, it definitely looked encouraging and the cardboard, no dig mulch seems to have been more successful than I had hoped.
Last Spring and Summer when I was working full time and couldn’t see a way to set out and dig all the remaining beds, I made a decision to lay out narrow paths with weed suppressing membrane and cover the future beds in layers of cardboard. I based this on my reading of Charles Dowding’s No Dig method from his books and articles, but as I realised soon afterwards I had misremembered the approach a little so wasn’t totally optimistic about it working. Instead of making lasagne type layers with compost and cardboard I mostly just used cardboard. This felt satisfying in terms of positive recycling, but wasn’t quite the right recipe.
Even though the plot is quite small, the soil on the plot is quite different in different parts and the beds I covered in cardboard had grass, dandelions and the longest orange rooted docks I have ever seen. Throughout the Summer and into the Winter the cardboard looked quite ugly and squelchy and seemed to be breeding slugs.Where I had compost to cover it and the cardboard was hidden was fine – at least in appearance as I wasn’t sure what was going on underneath. It was surprising and positive to see when inspecting the beds yesterday, that the surface of the soil was pretty clear and the cardboard had disappeared leaving ribbons of plastic packaging to be gathered up. Yes, there were still some docks and small clumps of grass, but these could be hand weeded from the paths very easily. The soil was also noticeably packed with worms which suggests its good health.
The plan with these no dig beds is to use them mostly for dahlias and see how it goes. This will mean that I can weed them and stick to no dig, just making planting holes for the plants. Lets hope this works as I have bags and bags of dahlia tubers arriving soon.
And today I joined the WFGA which organises a fantastic range of courses at good prices; so come early May, I will be going to Somerset to learn about No Dig gardening from Charles Dowding the expert himself. Can’t wait for that – I’ll be the one taking diligent notes …