Charles Dowding’s NoDig Garden

3 Oct

No Dig Market Garden course with Charles Dowding is over. My head is overflowing with new knowledge and new ideas. I enjoyed hospitality and great food from grown by Charles and prepared by Steph.
Charles is growing organic food for about 30 years. Most of this time he is developing a No-dig approach to farming. No-dig according to Charles means no disturbance of the soil life and no artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Instead he is building fertility of the soil by applying layer of compost every year. Compost and healthy soil is the key for producing high quality organic vegetables and fruits.<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/HATC3rG6NbQ” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe> With good planning and continuous cropping he is producing 2 to 3 crops from every bed per year. I was amazed to see how he transformed a weedy pasture into highly productive garden in just 2 years. Charles makes no secret on how to get on top of the weeds and pests. It is constant observation and keeping the beds and paths clean. His website is a great resource for anybody who wants to eat less artificial vegetables and start to grow.<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/smC5qJMisLo” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
To start a No-dig garden you will need fair amount of good quality compost. Best way to obtain compost is to make your own. Austrian philosopher and scientist was once asked to do lectures about making compost and his answer was just make it. Too much organic material ends up on landfills every day. Help your garden, the environment and save money by making your own compost. For his site with area of 800 sqm (1/5 acre) Charles used about 5 t of compost. Find a lot of detailed information about the No-dig method on his blog www.charlesdowding.co.uk In case of his garden compost was well rotted cow manure. This means manure and bedding composted for 1 to 2 years. He also had commercial food waste compost delivered, but growing trials were in favor of the manure compost. The key goal is to weaken the weeds with a thick mulch of compost. Cardboard and compost is used on the paths. After this we can start growing and keep vigilant of any emerging weeds. Alternatively we can cover the beds with black plastic and cut holes for the plants. There were hardly any weeds to be seen in the garden. There was a striking lushness of different colors of many vegetables and salad leaves. All obtain compost is to make your own the beds were full of growth. Charles is always raising a surplus of seedlings to keep the beds full. This is not only for productivity, but it also helps to keep the weeds down.
Second day was focused on economy and marketing of growing produce. Financial aspect were mentioned throughout the weekend as some of the attendees were already involved in market growing. The conclusion of some interesting discussions were that competing with big shops not easy and it is necessary to focus on higher value crops. These could be salad leaves, herbs, tomatoes. Charles has the most success with his mixed salad leaves bags.
Our cheap food culture makes it hard for small growers. Rising popularity of farmers markets is showing that people start to realize hidden costs of shipping food between continents. Or maybe they just realize that food grown in season without any chemicals is the best you can eat..

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