Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

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vivienz
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Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby vivienz » Thu May 03, 2018 10:01 pm

I'm moving house to the other end of the county towards the end of this year but hope to get started on my kitchen garden before then. The site is heavy clay. The kind you can makes pots from. The kind they use to line canals with. The kind that water only evaporates from, because it doesn't drain away. The kind that will break my back if I try and dig it or break my fork in the summer when it does a brilliant impression of concrete. Apart from that, it's lovely!.

I've been reading up on the no-dig method of kitchen gardening and I have to say that it looks very appealing as I think I will be on a hiding to nothing trying to incorporate enough organic matter into the soil to make it manageable. The clay starts at the top and goes down to at least 3 metres.

The fast start to getting the vegetable and fruit beds established looks great, but I'm sure that there are pitfalls of which I'm not aware.

Charles Dowding reckons that creating beds without boards for edging is a good idea as it gives slugs and snails fewer places to hide - does anyone have any particular opinions on this?

I'll have access to plenty of manure to put onto the beds and smother the weeds, so organic material shouldn't be a problem, but I've never gardened like this before. Are there any words of wisdom out there to help me whilst I'm still in the planning stage?
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Colin2016
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby Colin2016 » Fri May 04, 2018 8:05 am

Give Charles Dowding no dig a try and over the years I’m sure you will be very pleased with the results.

As regards slugs/snails although there was loads when I first moved in, because of the rubbish for them to hide in, they are not a problem now I have removed the rubbish & have raised beds.
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vivienz
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby vivienz » Fri May 04, 2018 8:15 am

Thanks, Colin. Have you used this type of method?
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby Colin2016 » Fri May 04, 2018 8:35 am

Yes I am using it on my allotment four 15ft x 4 ft beds using scaffolding boards with chippings as path. I was fortunate the plot was look after so did not have major work to do, unlike the garden when I moved in. I live very near the sea so soil is sandy & there is free seaweed.

I am following Charles Diary for planning & planting plus checking his forum.
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vivienz
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby vivienz » Fri May 04, 2018 8:37 am

Thanks, Colin, that's really good to know. I'm sure I shall be bothering you with further questions.

This is a very elementary question, but do you find that the height of the beds builds up significantly over time? I understand that only a few inches of compost are added each year and this will settle, but I'm curious nonetheless.
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Colin2016
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby Colin2016 » Fri May 04, 2018 8:47 am

This is my first year so no long term experience, gut feeling it would not build up much if at all as it would settle plus when you remove plants there is always bits attached to the roots, but hey that then goes in the compost.
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby robo » Fri May 04, 2018 9:11 am

Sounds like you are moving to where our allotment is , we are on puddling clay I went down 3 meter with an 8 inch augur and was still pulling it out , I finished up with 10 raised beds all 12 x 4 feet out of scaffolding planks the area I was left with I put on 30 tons of top soil as well as 5 tons of grass sods from a roundabout that the councillor decided should have flowers on , I do grow just about every vegetable I need it's now not a problem
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby tigerburnie » Fri May 04, 2018 9:49 am

Roots might be a problem, carrots and parsnips are grown in my raised beds that have a membrane at the bottom to keep out weeds and tree roots, the plants just bend if they hit the membrane and carry on growing. I now tend to grow stump rooted carrots.
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby Monika » Fri May 04, 2018 7:00 pm

Vivienz, nice to see you back!
Re raised beds without wooden frames etc: my father who was a very avid and knowledgeable vegetable gardener always grew everything on raised beds not in raised beds. The beds gradually 'grew' with the application of manure and compost but the paths in between were just trodden soil, kept completely weed free. And I have followed his method of growing for more than 60 years ......
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Primrose
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby Primrose » Fri May 04, 2018 7:08 pm

We have been in our house for 40 years now, and throughout this time I've always had a vegetable plot and a long border which I,ve used for growing beans tomatoes and salad crops in. Every year during this period I,ve emptied the contents of my large compost bin onto these areas, as well as adding bulk manure from time to time.

I would have expected the height of both areas to have risen considerably during this time but I doubt whether it has actually risen more than about six. inches in all this time. . I think over the years soil and manure particles just gradually dissolve with rain and slowly "disappear". When we renewed our fences years ago we installed 6" gravel boards at the base to stop them rotting Ifrom increased soil levels but the gravel boards are still 80% visible which illustrates how soil levels have gradually shrunk and dissolved in the rain and weather.

We have very storey soil. Every time we have a heavy downpour it seems to bring more stones to the surface. In the early days when it was a new build house and garden I would spend every weekend collecting stones and lugging them all off to the council tip thinking that eventually I would have the immaculate clear loamey soil I had seen in other "ideal" gardens. I eventually wised up to the effect that we were in a Thames gravel area and I was hankering after a pipe dream.

PS. Maybe you need to hire bloke with a pneumatic drill to drill through all that clay !

I think the answer is "get to know your soil and do what suits it" . This is definitely a case where one set of rules will not apply to everybody.
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vivienz
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby vivienz » Sun May 06, 2018 8:43 pm

Thanks both, and Monika, it's good to be back.

Primrose - I think you have hit the nail on the head and I will have to get to know the site. I'm sure that there will be plenty of both successes and failures, and things will change just as I think I've got the hang of them! But then, the challenge is half the fun.

I think I will get a couple of beds prepared over the next month or so and see if I can get some late season brassicas in, as much as an experiment as anything, and see how they get on. Watch this space.
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vivienz
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby vivienz » Mon May 14, 2018 8:03 am

Bumping my own thread here as I have another no-dig preparation question. I did warn you all, honest I did, so don't complain about all the questions! Actually, I have 2 questions.

The formation of my lovely new beds is coming tantalisingly close - just a few weeks away now. The beds are going onto a field that has, as far as anyone can remember, always been used for grazing cattle. It hasn't been grazed or cut for over a year now and the grass is pretty high. I'm following the Charles Dowding/lasagne model of laying down cardboard and then putting a layer of compost on top, several inches thick.

So, question 1 - should I mow/strim the grass before I put the cardboard down (I suspect this is a 'yes' as the cardboard may just float on top of it otherwise) and, if so, should I leave the mowings there or remove?

Question 2 - I will have access to a load of timber previously used as roof rafters. Should I edge the beds with this? I've read that this can give a nice hidey hole to slugs and snails which I'm not keen to encourage. On the other hand, as I'm putting a very thick layer of compost on top, the timbers would contain it nicely.

Any opinions?
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tigerburnie
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby tigerburnie » Mon May 14, 2018 8:30 am

To answer question one, I would cut the grass and leave it to compost where it is.
2 I have used timber for my raised beds, my Dad and my uncle were both very good growers and they didn't use timbers, personal choice I think.
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This is one of 3 three I built when I retired, the idea is to fill them slowly over the years when adding stuff like manure or compost, they are made of railway sleeper sized timber, so I can sit on the edge whilst working and finally I don't have to bend down so far.
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robo
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby robo » Mon May 14, 2018 8:53 am

I have ten raised beds made out of scaffold planks ,slugs and snails aren't a problem ,this year I'm growing through cardboard on three of them I just sprinkle slug pellets before I put the card board down
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vivienz
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Re: Starting a no-dig kitchen garden from scratch

Postby vivienz » Mon May 14, 2018 9:46 pm

Thanks, chaps. Smashing looking beds, Tigerburnie, I think it's safe to say that mine will be more functional than beautiful.

Robo - interesting to read about your growing through cardboard as that's pretty much what I will be doing. Keep us posted on your progress and results - it will be really helpful for me to see someone else's experiences. What size are your beds, by the way?
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