‘Hunger is not why tomatoes are planted, It’s their different taste, lest you take it for granted’ wrote Leon Rožman in a beautiful poem about Garden of Abundance. We think he really got the point why gardeners nowadays grow vegetables – because industrially processed food, certificates and nice words can never trick our taste buds and the memory of a good, tasty home-grown tomato. In order to grow such an abundance of vegetables in the garden and not exhaust ourselves, we do not dig our garden, which of course by far does not mean that we do not till our garden. This method of growing vegetables is of great interest to other gardeners. For example, our YouTube channel has over a million views of all videos, at the lectures we had across Slovenia there were more than 2000 listeners, and here, where we have workshops, there were over 300 participants. After all, there have been many practitioners in Slovenia working in such a way in recent years, so there is a great deal of conformation from us and elsewhere that this method of soil preparation and garden care is the right one and gives beautiful results. NO-DIG GARDEN Have you ever wondered why do we dig up gardens? When we ask this question in our lectures or workshops, we usually get the next 5 answers. Why do we dig up gardens? – To have light soil. After digging up, tilling or ploughing, we do have light soil. But this lightness is very short-term. After about a month or two, it is compacted again and the top layer becomes crusty so we are in a kind of a vicious circle since we have to dig up the ground every year. The reason for this is that the aerobic microorganisms that are on the soil surface are inverted and put into a depth of 20, 30 cm, and those microorganisms, that don’t require oxygen, are brought to the top. In this way we totally destroy the structure and the balance in the soil, especially when we till, since we bring a lot of oxygen in that period, a lot of organic material, humus is burnt and fungi in the soil are completely destroyed. If we mulch the soil with organic material and we do not dig it up, this organic material binds with the materials in the soil. Clay-humus complexes are formed, which in practice it means that clayey soil becomes lighter and sandy soil becomes more compact. The forest grows on different soil types, and since they are always covered with leaves, that crust is always light. Why do we dig up gardens? –To remove weeds. This is the fastest way to remove the weeds from overgrown beds, in this way we can also remove the roots of bindweed or dandelion, but most of these roots remain in the soil. Especially when tilling, as these roots are merely torn into smaller pieces. By inverting the soil a lot of weed seeds are brought from the depths which overgrow our surface even more. Weeds are a natural defence mechanism of bare soil, by which it is protected from external factors, because there is no bare soil in nature except in the desert. Weed is any plant we do not want to have in our garden, field or any other cultivable land. The soil thus contains a lot of weed seeds, which germinate less and less in a no-dig garden, since we do not bring them to the surface by turning. Because there is no turning and together with mulching the seeds are kept in the depths. By regular hoeing and pulling, we got rid of perennial weeds in our garden as well. Why do we dig up gardens? – To have bare soil for sowing. Since many gardeners leave their gardens in late summer and autumn so that weeds overgrow the beds, digging up before the next season is almost necessary to get bare soil into which we can directly sow seeds or transplant seedlings of vegetables. In this case digging up makes sense, though of course we should never abandon the gardens and let weeds overgrow it. To prevent bare soil, we mulch the surface with compost. Yes, compost is our favourite mulch, because it behaves similarly to soil. We can sow seeds in it or transplant vegetables and cultivate this surface with different gardening tools in the same way. Compost is basically fully processed humus-like loose organic material, all the seeds germinate in it and it behaves perfectly on the garden ground. Since they are mulched with compost, we reduce the need for watering, add organic material which absorbs moisture better, and of course this is a beneficial environment for the life microorganisms and other larger soil organisms. Why do we dig up gardens? – To incorporate manure. Fertilizing with fresh manure, which by the way is, in our opinion, the wrong way of fertilizing, requires incorporating in the soil. We cannot directly sow or transplant seedlings into it, as it would destroy all those plants and seedlings. Compost is much better organic fertilizer than manure. When spread over the bed, it acts as a mulch, it is at the same time a living space, provides a lot of nutrients, microorganisms, earthworms draw all this material into the depths, loosen the soil and in this way it is improved. Compost can also be made from animal manure but proper processes must take place in order to get a matter in which seeds sprout successfully and seedlings grow well. Why do we dig up gardens? – Because everyone does it. Unfortunately, gardening folklore is such that the soil must be tilled every year. We didn’t know otherwise at first either. When we transformed this lawn into a garden, on January 30, 2014, we called a neighbour with a tractor, who ploughed and actually dug us a lawn where we created a garden. But in that first season in which we weren’t very successful, we’ve learnt a lot and have never since dug up soil in our garden. Our garden has not been dug up for 6 years now. Give yourself freedom when gardening and ask yourself basic questions why certain things are done the way they are done, and maybe try method or two without digging up, which we represent on our website and in our videos. In this video, we will present 3 methods of soil preparation without digging up as we do it in our garden Let’s go. Soil preparation without digging up: with a compost mulch. First, we harvest the crops from the beds, remove the straw or other coarse mulching, and hoe the surface shallow, which means no more than five cm. If we are just starting out and have a really compacted soil, we deeply aerate it with pitchforks without any mixing of layers, and quickly hoe the newly formed clods. Since the soil in the Garden of Abundance is already deeply light, we don’t do this. Then we add compost which we spread over the surface 3 to 5 cm thick so that it covers the soil and we don’t incorporate compost into it. The surface is immediately ready for transplanting seedlings and also for sowing seeds. It is best to prepare the soil in autumn and repeat this every year, but we can also do it in early spring or at any time during the season. Over time, the dark colour of the compost fades as it binds to the soil but is still great for plant growth. Soil preparation without digging up: filling raised beds. The preparation of raised beds is done in the same way as directly on the ground, except that instead of mulching them, we fill the beds with compost. The level in the beds lowers throughout the season, so we add as much compost to reach the top. We do not mix it but only spread on the surface as this is the best filling that settles minimally. It is better to fill more that too little. Compost is added in autumn after the harvested vegetables, but also in spring or anytime during the season. We can sow seeds or transplant seedlings immediately in the beds. Compost provides enough nutrients for all garden vegetables, whereas raised beds create beautiful garden scenery. Soil preparation without digging up: winter green manure. In the Garden of Plenty, rye as green manure is sown after pumpkins and watermelons, which spread in the summer over the foil from the compost piles on the south edge of the garden. Under the foil, the grass decomposes in 4 months and we have bare soil. However, since we do not want bare soil in a no-dig garden, and if we do not have enough compost, we plant green manure. In summer, we grow different vegetables in the garden, so it is best to plant green manure in winter, e.g. winter grains or winter tares. Our favourite is rye. First, we harvest the pumpkins and remove the greens, and then the foil covering more than 40 m2 of surface is removed. We remove dried grass from the beds, which will come in useful later. Afterwards rye is densely sown over the entire surface which hasn’t been dug up before. There’s no need for digging. Rye is sown more densely than on farmers’ fields. The surface is then mulched with grass, fresh grass clippings or straw. Mulch should be 2 to 3 cm thick. Its purpose is to retain moisture and that rye can still sprout through it. Although the whole process takes a lot of work, w we shouldn’t forget to compost pumpkin greens. Rye sprouts in 7 days and winters. Next season, we have our straw and enriched soil. The basic concept is simple: non-digging up and mulching, but then there are also the details. We hope that because of this video you will mulch at least 2 m2 of your garden with a compost mulch and observe to get your own experience as you will gain most of it. You can find a lot more information, details and tricks on our website www.vrtobilja.si. A lot about soil preparation is written in the book ‘Digging? No, thanks’. For the next year, 2020, however, we are preparing one special thing – Garden of Abundance Club, to which you are also invited. Together we will be solving all these problems that appear in natural gardens without digging and find a common solution to produce as many vegetables as possible. Intro rehearsal no. 1. Do I have something in my teeth? Yeah, everything. You are orange there. You have soup there, too. In my teeth? Still. Still. OK. I ate hazelnuts before. Squirrel. I must not laugh. Are we?