Impossible not to dig

When I first learned about the no-dig technique, I wasn’t ready to take it on board. Then I moved up a notch and with my hugel beds in situ, there is little chance of my being able to dig approximately half the garden now.

However, processing food waste with a bokashi bin does require that I do some digging in order to deposit the contents when they are ‘ready’. At least, at this time of year, I need to dig the Jerusalem artichokes up, so this is an ideal opportunity to off-load bokashi solids.

I am aware that a certain amount of digging is good physical exercise but I am concerned about the damage I do to the soil and creatures within it. On Monday, the Jerusalem artichoke patch seemed to be teeming with worms, but yesterday when I finished off the job I wondered if the numbers had dwindled. Of course, this may not be the case but I did unfortunately kill a few inadvertently with my spade and no doubt the blackbirds will have had a meal or two of them.

Perhaps the solution is a Green Johanna, which apparently composts food along with garden waste. I could then put the contents of the bokashi bin in there rather than digging a trench for them. Alternatively, I could do away with the bokashi system, although I do like to have the liquid fertiliser it produces.

Anyway, food for thought!

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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20 Responses to Impossible not to dig

  1. I agree with you on the necessity for digging

  2. Emma@ Misfit Gardening says:

    I put my Bokashi waste in the compost bin rather than dig it in a hole or trench although in the soil it does break down quicker!

    • Helen says:

      What about rats? Do you have a problem with them – presumably not? I find I can put the contents of the bokashi in the compost in the summer but not in winter.

  3. I’m not a fan of “one solution fits all” and no-dig seems to have become dogma in many permaculture circles. My problem – as an ecologist – is that relying entirely on natural processes to mix the mineral part of the soil with all the organic matter that you apply to the top may simply not work in the time-frame of a veg garden. Without the mineral component, there is no clay to hold on to nutrients, and this has implications for carbon sequestration. Earthworms are robust creatures and capable of surviving disturbance (unless they get physically damaged)… so my suggestion is that you carry on digging, where appropriate. You may find that your hugelkultur bedseventually need some mineral additions (at least one friend of mine has reported this – good productivity initially, with a subsequent drop-off).

    • Helen says:

      An interesting reply to my post – thank you!

      From looking at the way the contents of the bokashi bin behave in the soil, I would agree that they just don’t get mixed up with the soil without the help of a spade or other human intervention. In other words, it tends to stay in a lump where is was placed. On the other hand, I understand that disturbing soil releases carbon into the atmosphere but more vegetation such as trees would possibly absorb the carbon?

      As for the hugel beds, the jury is out as to whether they are more productive than my ordinary soil. I’m hopeful that over time they will help to build it but undoubtedly the more quickly released nutrients will get used up long before the goodness from the wood kicks in.

      • Ecology is complex and whilst disturbing the soil does release carbon, there can be net sequestration in the slightly longer term. I love permaculture but I do find some massive oversimplification sometimes… I’m writing a book to help address this…

        • Helen says:

          I’m glad to have you comment and extend my knowledge. I am by no means an expert, as you probably realise… my background is language(s) and linguistics, so I am only starting to learn about ecology now.

          I guess oversimplification is par for the course when trying to get a message across without overwhelming beginners. However, my instinct has been that a truly good design requires large amounts of knowledge.

  4. gaiainaction says:

    Enjoyed your article Helen, and also the comments between yourself and The Snail of Happiness blogger (must visit that blog) very interesting and good for me to learn about this too. Can’t wait to get back to Ireland to start looking after my own vegetable garden. Soon it will be white with three cornered garlic and I will miss it all as we won’t be home until late April. Kind regards, Agnes

  5. mortaltree says:

    My grandmother used to bury her compost until she got a bin as you linked to. Personally I find beds with lots of worm activity (and I mean lots) can’t keep organic matter on the soil surface because the worms keep pulling it down their holes. I’ve seen them before pulling stuff down. Charles Darwin, I am told, took a great fascinarion in earhworms and even made lists of what he noticed they prefered to pull down their holes.
    I prefer to use mulch material with a higher carbon to nitrogen ratio for mulch, since the point here is to cover ground while adding nutrients to soil, and use the low ratio, nitrogen rich kitchen scraps for compost that can grow seedlings. What do you use to start seedlings in?
    Don’t know what the heck your snail friend thinks she’s talking about with minerals and clay. Carbon has a much higher cation exchange capacity anyway. But I’ll restrain myself from anything further in your comments.

  6. No dig is not a new idea, just has a new name for what people were doing a long time ago, back when they didn’t have garbage collection and had to compost just about eveything. Even today I see Bauern garten, (farmer or kitchen gardens) in old villages in Germany piled high with ripe rich almost black compost that they plant into. They have probably never heard of no dig, they just always did it that way. If you think about it, once you have a garden like that you just have to rake or hoe a drill to plant into, that is if you can make enough And that is what I am still trying to do!

I love to read about your own experiences and any other feedback you have, so look forward to your comments below.

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