Here’s why no-dig gardening isn’t necessarily right for everyone…
The no-till or no-dig gardening approach has many ardent followers. Proponents of this method say that tilling or turning the soil destroys soil structure and interferes with soil microbes and other organisms that help to improve soil health.
While there is some merit to this claim, it’s important not to take it so much to heart that you ignore your specific soil conditions and avoid other methods that may help to improve your gardening experience.
For example, where we live, our soil is largely composed of heavy clay. This can be both good and bad for gardening. While it means that our soil might not dry out as quickly as lighter soils would, it also means that heavy rains frequently cause flooding and compaction of the soil – not helpful for gardening!
The density of our soil also means that even planting can sometimes be difficult. Without digging, turning, or at least deeply agitating the soil, it’s often very hard to plant seedlings or even seeds.
Starting a garden in our location would have been next to impossible without initially tilling the soil to break up the top layer and remove grass roots. We spent several years afterward digging the grass out and turning the soil into raised beds. Given how often our area floods, we would not be able to garden without having done this to start with.
While we don’t till our garden anymore, and we do add compost and deep mulch every season, the soil remains dense and hard to work with during most weather conditions. We rarely do much digging, usually opting for a good, vigorous churning with a stirrup hoe before planting. And, we sometimes add hay into the center of our beds using the core bed technique, which seems to add some aeration and volume to the soil.
Not every garden technique will work well for every gardener, and as gardener Huw Richards explains in the video below, it’s important to understand this and not to beat yourself up too much if you can’t fully embrace “no-dig” gardening!