A pioneer of no-dig vegetable gardening

When you think about vegetable gardening, you probably think there’s lots of heavy digging and hard work involved. Right? Well, there’s not if you follow the advice of Charles Dowding.

Since 1983, Charles Dowding has been practising the no-dig method of gardening, an approach to vegetable growing that is the reverse of the intensive, invasive techniques used by the majority of gardeners around the world. Through videos, books, and personally run courses and workshops, he has become a central proponent for a method of organic gardening that is not only easier, but that also produces greater yields at harvest time.

So what is no-dig gardening?

Quite simply, it’s gardening that doesn’t require digging. The main focus of the method instead lies around the application of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, compost, leaf mold, or old straw, directly to the soil surface as a mulch.

By leaving the soil untouched, a no-dig gardener allows it to develop its own aerated structure. No-dig harnesses nature’s own processes, where fertility builds downwards as organic matter lands on top, and worms and soil fauna travel upwards to find food. It has none of the disadvantages of digging, such as loss of moisture and soil structure, or the damage caused to soil life such as worms and fungi. No-dig also reduces the number of weeds found on a patch. After it has been dug, soil recovers first with weed-growth – both from the roots of perennials and the seeds of annuals. By eliminating the digging, the majority of weeds are also eliminated, as long as the patch has been cleared of the larger weeds during your initial preparation of the site. Those few that do still make their way onto the vegetable path – from wind-blown seeds and compost – can be dealt with while they’re still small. ‘Little and often’ is the mantra of no-dig.

Out of his Somerset garden, Charles has run a number of experiments over the past 30 years to discover just how much of a difference no-dig gardening makes. He has planted identical crops in beds that differed only in their gardening method: dig vs no-dig. His results repeatedly show that most vegetables grow more strongly and healthily on the no-dig beds, for less effort and time needed.

In this video Charles demonstrates and explains two dig free methods of clearing weeds.

Charles has published numerous books on the subject of no did gardening. His journals and diaries are particularly useful, as they not only give you instruction about what to do in your vegetable patch, they also tell you what you need to be doing from week to week in order to achieve the best harvests possible. In addition to this he has written numerous articles for gardening publications, including Gardeners World, Kitchen Garden, Country Smallholding, Permaculture, Grow Your Own, The Daily Telegraph, NVS, Optimum Nutrition and the RHS.


As well as all of this, Charles also has a strong presence on social media, giving updates and advice on Twitter, and regularly uploading videos about no dig gardening to his YouTube channel. He gives talks to gardening clubs, fund raising events, community meetings, allotment societies and literary festivals. Finally, he also runs courses, both at Homeacres in Somerset, and in trips around the UK and abroad. If you’re inspired by Charles Dowding and the no-dig method of gardening, then check out his website for a list of upcoming events.