Get Microbes Working for You!
No-Dig Gardening: Can you Dig it?
(the answer is No, Don’t Dig!)
Once upon a time, digging in the garden was considered best practice. Tools like rototillers were all the rage. It was thought that by opening up soil to break up clumps, plants would thrive.
This has been the general line of thought since early humans started using the plow. What we know now, which we didn’t know then: every time we disturb soil, or dig into it, we are doing more damage than good.
Planning a no-dig garden this Spring using the Booster microbes in Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Worm Manure can save you some back pain from digging, while creating a thriving, healthy soil ecosystem for your plants.
Nature provides all the digging tools required
When soil has the biology that Mother Nature intended, it will inherently have the proper structure too. Soil structure and soil biology go hand in hand - you can’t have one without the other. When the soil ecosystem is thriving, soil will have all the natural air pockets it needs. It won’t require manually turning or loosening. In other words, the microorganisms and micro-arthropods do the digging for you.
Some of the key players in a healthy living soil ecosystem are bacteria and fungi. Microscopic bits of sand, silt, clay and organic matter are held together by glues produced by bacteria and these tiny clumps are known as microaggregates. These microaggregates are then wrapped in long strands of webbing produced by fungi and known as macroaggregates.
The fungi strands that create macroaggregates are like a spider’s webbing – long, spindly and massively strong, especially when woven together. These larger macroaggregates act like marbles in a jar, creating pockets of open air space to hold water and providing structure to the soil to prevent compaction.
Digging into soil hurts your plants
These long strands of fungal webbing literally holds the soil together. When we dig into the soil, we rip these strands apart. Like a broken spider’s web, there is no longer any structural integrity. Without the structure provided by the activity of bacteria and fungi, the soil becomes hard and compacted. Disturbing fungal networks also reduces the ability for plants to communicate between each other and exchange nutrients.
Many plants form a relationship with fungi and in some cases fungi symbiotically live partially inside the plant. By harming fungal networks, you hurt the plant’s natural ability to work with other organisms in the soil to maximum nutrient uptake.
Digging and increasing oxygen in the soil also speeds up the rate at which carbon decomposes, further damaging the ecosystem by leaving bacteria without the carbon-based homes they require.
Weeds grow more when you dig into the soil
Moreover, what grows when you disturb the soil? Weeds, as they don’t need a healthy soil structure! When you dig into the soil layers, you can bring up weed seeds, which prefer soil without fungal webs, (and remember that those were destroyed by digging), so you’ll spend more time maintaining your garden than necessary.
It’s better to keep the soil structure intact for healthy plants and smother weeds with organic mulch. Adding a layer of wood chips will mimic nature’s way of recycling nutrients, and keep soil covered to reduce weeds.
How to set up and maintain a No-Dig Garden
Only gently disturb soil when you remove weeds and transplant seedlings for no-dig growing. Pull weeds by hand, which disturbs the soil less than using tools. When planting, dig holes with a trowel only large enough for the root ball of each seedling.
When starting from seeds, press large seeds such as beans, corn or squash into the soil, and add tiny seeds into shallows at recommended depths.
Each year, add compost to your no dig garden and prep it by cutting away any remnants of last year’s crops down to ground level and leave any roots in the ground. These carbon-heavy roots will be broken down and the air spaces that remain will further promote healthy soil.
Most importantly, make sure you’re using Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Worm Manure to bring the biology back into your soil!
No Dig Gardens are the Easy and Healthy Way
Keep what goes on underground in mind when you are growing. Avoiding damage to soil life and structure is why I’m a huge proponent of “No Dig” gardening. Besides, why would you do all that back breaking work when you are really doing more damage than good over the long term?
The concentrated microbiology in Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Worm Manure will take care of aerating (adding air pockets to) the soil on your behalf. Ditch your digging tools, and leave the heavy lifting (and digging!) to the Booster microbes!