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no dig gardening to convert pasture  RSS feed

 
Susan Wakeman
Posts: 38
Location: Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Europe
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no dig gardening has been posted about on this forum before. I came across this method in Charles Dowding's books, which I heartily recommend.

no dig gardening allows you to turn pasture/fallow land into good gardening space very quickly indeed. We have used this method to convert about 300m2 in a community garden, going from pasture in spring to first harvest in autumn.

We laid down cardboard, then wood chips on the paths and on the beds a sandwich of leaves, grass clippings (delivered for free by the estate garden contractors) and municipal compost to top it off (lasagna gardening). We produced a 100kg pumpkin! Both the pumpkin and the cardboard caused some talk in the neighbourhood. I often had to explain that worms love the cardboard, it disappears within 6 weeks if covered. In the end, we made sure all cardboard was mulched with grass clippings, as it is a bit unsightly. We used big packaging boxes. The tape comes off more easily when they are damp.

Dowding prefers simply putting 6 inches of well rotted manure or compost directly on the soil. At this depth, cardboard underneath is not necessary. Best done in Autumn, when manure and woodchips are more available, and left over winter, but we started in May and got away with it.

I found that after mulching, the remaining clumps of weeds and grass simply pull out as the ground is soft and moist, an impossibility earlier in the dense pasture. In fact, we did remove the sod for one row of beds and gave up!

This method does also cut down on watering dramatically, especially if beds are laid down across the slope. We hill up these beds in autumn before putting down new woodchips (also delivered for free from tree trimming companies). The beds are covered over winter with shredded leaves - picked up by lawnmower - which the worms integrate into the soil over winter, leaving the beds pretty much weed free for spring.

The slugs do love the conditions created by all the rotting mulch, we had an infestation early on the second spring during two damp weeks, but it settled down after the weather turned dry. In future we will try to rake off any mulch onto the paths in late winter till the weather starts turning hot around mid-June, then mulch with grass clippings. We are dreaming of getting some runner ducks...

We had so little weeds the first year that some beginner gardeners had to be taught about weeding! Mainly some deep rooted pasture perennials and some bindweed. Interesting, bindweed was stringest in the fallow beds, quite weak in planted beds, and on paths it stays in little clumps, easily pulled up in any case.

 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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One of the important things with this method is to mulch well beyond the areas that you wish to plant (as you did with the paths) otherwise weeds like couch grass and ground elder just run along under the cardboard and find a way through after the mulch has started to rot down or when you harvest.
 
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