No dig policy.

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Wayland., Jul 24, 2018.

  1. Wayland.

    Wayland. Active Member Premium Member

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    This is becoming very popular in the UK with both farmers and veg growers. I have set up a number of trial beds this year and first impressions are amazing. Less work and higher yields are said to be the big advantages, time will tell. Is this method practiced much in Australia?
     
  2. AndrewB

    AndrewB Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    It makes a lot of sense to me, I only grow in pots & a couple of small beds currently, but haven't pulled anything out (other than root vegetables like carrots & radish).

    If anything dies I just cut back to soil level, leave the roots to decompose & drop the cut pieces back on top as mulch.
     
  3. Wayland.

    Wayland. Active Member Premium Member

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    I dig, always have, but watching the videos on You tube makes me think, Why am I breaking me back for less yield? Well time will tell in a month or sow when I dig up me maincrop spuds.
     
  4. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    The reasoning behind the no dig revolution is to preserve the fungal microfili and bacterial colony residents in the soil.

    It relies on very good open, yet moisture holding soil.
    This type of soil rarely exists in Australia naturally.
    Unlike Continental countries that have relatively new soils, ours is very old and worn out.
    This even applies to that which has been significantly improved through organic gardening practices. The base product is old so most of the ''good gear' that causes European soil to produce so well, is gone from ours.

    Much of our soil needs aeration and loosening up on a regular basis. Many farmers are attempting to practice minimal till but if there is a lot of rain or no rain it usually means the paddocks have to be plowed again.

    Closer to our own backyard, we can create brand new soil via compost. If we get the recipe right, the compost will grow anything.
    But we all know how frustrating it is to succeed at making compost on a grand scale.
    One of the reasons compost succeeds is that the fungal and bacterial ratio is correct. When this happens, it doesn't need digging..... Hence the no dig garden!
     
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  5. Wayland.

    Wayland. Active Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for that ClissAT. I am trying to get my head around "Very old soil"!
     
  6. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    :D Wayland! Comparatively speaking in a geological time frame of course.

    The land mass that Australia is made out of has migrated around the earth 3 times mostly above water level and therefore subject to erosion and degradation for millenia.
    Whereas where you live and the rest of Europe was only created in recent geological times.
    Actually to be very honest, the wars that have occurred over there in last 300yrs have added significant amounts of fertility. I'll leave you to decypher that sentence.
    This continent where I live has not seen war unless you go back to dinasaurs!

    During its migration this land mass was bare and rocky, then it went underwater where it gained fertility to become mostly covered with jungle and inhabited by very large animals.

    The migration of the continents moved it north out of the cooler climate so it began to dry out again.

    But once populated by humans 40-60 thousand years ago, it quickly became desertified due to the slash and burn techniques of the new inhabitants so the soil wore out completely.

    Over in your neck of the woods, there hasn't been slash and burn practised to a large degree although they have cut down all the forest, plus you are still in the cooler regions where soil and plants grow better.

    My soil here is 10cm (4inches) of worn out grey/black scrub loam over yellow clay
    based schist which has no fertility or moisture holding capacity at all.

    The darned rocky clay isn't even good for making bricks or building anything. Since I had a 1.7m deep excavation done for a new shed I can see down into it now and the trees don't even send roots into it except for some to hang on with.

    As soon as I start a new garden bed, the tree roots arrive, stealing the fertility and moisture. This is why I began growing in containers.
     
  7. Wayland.

    Wayland. Active Member Premium Member

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    Ok ClissAT. Thanks for that interesting study into the geological history of Australia. We have a good deal of Schist in the UK also. Our biggest asset in the UK in regard to topsoil quality would be the number of ice ages the country endured in the comparatively resent past. Localised war actions may well have produced the poppy fields of flanders but would have little influence in the Fens. The reason I have trouble with reasoning that a countries age determines its soil quality is, that the fertility of top soil is not a historical phenomenon but the result of more resent actions. One inch in one hundred years on average. If I dig a hole eighteen inches deep I would be down to approximately the Roman period in the UK. Regional conditions could affect this greatly but as a rule of thumb this works. Of course the underlying geological conditions do influence the top soil structure but, I would humbly suggest that your poor soil is the result of more resent actions or lack of them be it climate etc.
     
  8. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Ah ok I see your thinking, Wayland.
    Possibility something not normal to you over there is our great rate of erosion where even in built up areas we can have more than an inch or so of soil erosion annually.
    This is despite people's efforts to preserve and protect the soil.
    The soil is being turned over at a rate that makes it hard to decern the geo age just by digging a hole.
    Farmland is turned over at several inches anually.
    So for us, the notion of going down through the ages is we dig deeper is not a very acurrate method of assessment.
    This turn over of soil makes it very hard to hold organic matter as it is lost faster than it can be made.
     
  9. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    This is a very interesting subject and I always consider the "no dig" policy as really meaning a "limited dig" policy because if taken literally backyard food gardening would be very difficult to do!

    I suppose it's easier to no dig in containers or high side raised garden beds via adding compost and mulch etc to top them up but even then there comes a point when a bit of tilling or digging is required.

    The days of the "double dig" are probably redundant - big job and also an overkill really... My big tiller has sat in the shed for years now unused (I should sell it on eBay).

    Personally, I try my best not to disturb the soil too much when preparing the bed for a new crop but this also depends on what it is because growing potatoes is different to an above ground crop like salads or brassicas.

    The reason I don't like to disturb the medium too much is to not kill worms or other microbes unnecessarily and to preserve the soil fungi etc - a good garden bed should have "living soil" I'm a big believer in harnessing natural symbiotic relationships between animals and plants etc.
     
  10. Wayland.

    Wayland. Active Member Premium Member

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    Indeed, erosion at the rate you describe does explain very well the problem of "Old Soil". So I am considered educated. This does happen to a limited extent in the Fens in the UK. The topsoil is black fen which consists mainly of peat. Due to extensive drainage and oxidisation a good "Fen Blow" removes as a fine black powder large amounts of topsoil. In many places the "Black Gold" has gone and the underlying cley is exposed. At a rate of loss of over a metre the Roman period has long gone. This is only a localised area but it does aid my understanding of your Australia. Many thanks, it has been interesting.:thumbsup:
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
  11. Wayland.

    Wayland. Active Member Premium Member

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    Taking your point Mark. For a long time now a growing number of tillage farmers in the UK drill their crops into the stubble directly. This is not to say that they don't cultivate. They have the drill bolted to the back of a rotavator. It is by this example that I am experimenting. I asked the question "So how do you harvest Parsnips?". Apparently I just dig the falk in by the crop and jiggle it about a bit until the roots become loose. My crop of main crop spuds will be coming out soon. I am told that the vast majority of the crop will be under the straw and compost layer. So no real digging required. Wishful thinking perhaps. Time will tell.
     

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