To Dig or Not To Dig – That is the Question

It had always been my intention, when I got my allotment, to use No Dig principles throughout.  I had read all the books and watched YouTube until I had square eyes!  I wanted to have 2.4m x 1.2m raised beds as these could be made from 3 lengths of 2.4m timber.  The plan was to create at least two straight away whilst I was sorting the rest of the site.

I knew there was an existing Asparagus bed which, if still viable, I could convert to no dig by just adding compost and manure each year.  The only bed I had considered digging in the first year was a larger patch which I wanted to use for potatoes.  The long-term plan is for potatoes in tubs, but I don’t have enough yet.

One of the main overriding factors in all of this is one of cost.  This allotment must be run on a budget as far as possible.  Yes, there will be some initial outlay on tools and some materials and that was expected.  However, I doubt that it will run to the timber to build raised beds and the compost to fill them up.

I appreciate that no-dig beds do not need to be raised beds, just compost laid on to cardboard – but this still requires compost!  Now, there are three very small compost areas on the plot which I discovered by clearing brambles and ferns during week one.  However, I doubt there is enough to create one bed.

The long-term plan is to build larger compost bins from pallets and hopefully produce enough to start filling no-dig beds.  I do have about 300 litres of compost at home, but this is assigned to the beds and pots in the back garden.  I may be able to use some, we will have to see.

So, the quandary is do I go for no-dig or dig beds or a combination?

It is not a case of which is the best way to go as I am sure there are proponents of both forms who will strongly fight their corners.  It is, as I have already intimated, about practicality and affordability.  What can I make work on the allotment and what can I afford to make work?

My Plan of Action (Until it Changes!)

The site was originally laid out with 6 dug beds, and these are still clearly defined and on a recent visit, whilst raking up loose grass, I completely uncovered one of the original beds with well-defined paths either side (Old Bed 2).  This is the bed adjacent to the Asparagus bed which I hope to keep (Old Bed 1).

My thoughts are to bring 2 beds into production as dug beds for this season in order to get some crops in the ground.   This will allow me to prepare the ground for no-dig beds later in the year and next year. The advantage of this is that I will be able to get a lot more compost ready to start building no-dig beds and hopefully be able to scrounge some timber throughout the year.

So Plan A is to bring Old Beds 1 & 2 into production this year, as dug beds, whilst covering Old Bed 3 in preparation for the first 4 No-Dig beds 1, 2, 3, & 4. Once I have cleared the whole site and finished with the bonfire on Old Bed 4, this bed and Old Bed 5 can be covered in preparation for more No-Dig beds.

I intend to build a new composting area at the other end of the site and clear the existing composting area to make room for a potential Poly Tunnel. Old Bed 6 is one of concern because I have noticed that it is very damp under foot as the ground slopes towards that end of the plot.

The Final Dream (Maybe!)

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