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  • 2 dig or not 2 dig 4 1
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Poll

How do you prefer to turn over your plot?

By hand digging with a spade/ fork
- 2 (33.3%)
By using a rotovator/ cultivator
- 3 (50%)
By using the 'no dig' method
- 1 (16.7%)

Total Members Voted: 6


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Author Topic: 2 dig or not 2 dig  (Read 189 times)

scary crow

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2 dig or not 2 dig
« on: February 11, 2015, 07:00:05 PM »

I have always  dug or rotovated but there is people out there that say you dont need to whats your say regarding this ? .. Is it just part of the image that if you own a allotment you have to be bent over with a spade digging then some people say thats not good enough you have to double dig or are you a machine man and get dragged around the plot behind a rotovator some say using a rotovator is ok but leaves a hard pan which double digging would cure have your say im all ears ...
Oh have a read of this aswell ..
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Big Gee

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2015, 09:47:49 PM »

That link is a bit corrupted I think Scary, is it this one you had in mind?

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If it is then it's the blog of Charles Dowding, the UK's No.1 advocate of the 'no dig' method. Incidentally, he requested 24 Aeron Purple Star beans off me last autumn - I'll be interested to know how they get on in his 'no dig' bean bed. Unlike some, he also gave me an instant donation towards my out of pocket P&P costs.

A lovely chap. However, I'm STILL in love with Big Bertha. I'm a dyed in the wool rotovator man myself. I firmly believe that most of the problems associated with rotovating boils down to the misuse of the machine and bad soil management. All this about 'panning' I have yet to experience & my plot was clay when I started on it. Five seasons down the line with copious amounts of manure it's turned dark and is crumbly down to a depth of at least two spits. The earthworm population is as high as ever and apart from still being unable to successfully grow long rooted veg. like carrots & parsnips, I have no complaints. Not only is it thoroughly rotovated in autumn it gets the same treatment in spring and Bertha has little sessions all through the growing season - as crops are harvested. No 'panning' no erosion and not that many weeds, the secret is soil management with tons of manure to enrich the clay soil.

Hand digging? A madman's past time! Apart from the traditional image of spade in soil and an aching back, I think it's much wiser to conserve all that energy for other tasks - especially as the years catch up with you!


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scary crow

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2015, 10:32:59 PM »

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That link is a bit corrupted I think Scary, is it this one you had in mind?

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If it is then it's the blog of Charles Dowding, the UK's No.1 advocate of the 'no dig' method. Incidentally, he requested 24 Aeron Purple Star beans off me last autumn - I'll be interested to know how they get on in his 'no dig' bean bed. Unlike some, he also gave me an instant donation towards my out of pocket P&P costs.

A lovely chap. However, I'm STILL in love with Big Bertha. I'm a dyed in the wool rotovator man myself. I firmly believe that most of the problems associated with rotovating boils down to the misuse of the machine and bad soil management. All this about 'panning' I have yet to experience & my plot was clay when I started on it. Five seasons down the line with copious amounts of manure it's turned dark and is crumbly down to a depth of at least two spits. The earthworm population is as high as ever and apart from still being unable to successfully grow long rooted veg. like carrots & parsnips, I have no complaints. Not only is it thoroughly rotovated in autumn it gets the same treatment in spring and Bertha has little sessions all through the growing season - as crops are harvested. No 'panning' no erosion and not that many weeds, the secret is soil management with tons of manure to enrich the clay soil.

Hand digging? A madman's past time! Apart from the traditional image of spade in soil and an aching back, I think it's much wiser to conserve all that energy for other tasks - especially as the years catch up with you!



Cheers Gee dont know what happened there with that link ..   When you read that about the no dig method just chuck lots of manure and compost on your plot and let the worms do the work makes you think are we  wasting time that we could use to do other jobs.. The farmers here drag a tool through the soil as they get a hard pan and although the soil is good to a certain depth beyond that it turns hard and they break it up before ploughing and rotavating  ..  Have you ever thought of trying the Dowding no dig and see how it works ....
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dimogga

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2015, 08:46:29 AM »

I started nearly four years ago with a bit of ground that had not been dug, just scraped and "leveled"... ie: it still sloped off on one side.
It was a lot of clay. I started hand digging. There was no way a rotavator would have done anything useful with it, it was just too nightmarish. We did get a medium rotavator on it and that chopped the big chunks up a bit, but too much clay to do much good with it.
We tried the big rotavator (Allotment bought a 5HP forward and reverse gear monster) and that helped with one or two beds, but again where there's clay it's pointless.
Lots of muck has gone on. I've aimed to add as much organic material as possible to try and raise the soil level up. It's been reasonable successful crop wise.

I think I stuck with a lot of hand digging as I found it really therapeutic whilst my dad was ill and after he died. I spent a lot of time digging quietly on my own, peace and quiet.
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Lottylady

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2015, 10:07:02 AM »

I dont dig ......not proper digging with a spade ....I use a fork and just mix it up a bit with compost.......below is solid clay so every spring, autumn I lay a good few inches of compost on top. I use a fork to get a weeds such as couch grass,  Did go up plot and watched the mechanical digger when they were laying the water pipes.....its as very interesting seeing the layers + layers....a geology lesson.....and why I don't dig when I saw all that clay.
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Big Gee

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2015, 12:13:50 PM »

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Cheers Gee dont know what happened there with that link ..   When you read that about the no dig method just chuck lots of manure and compost on your plot and let the worms do the work makes you think are we  wasting time that we could use to do other jobs.. The farmers here drag a tool through the soil as they get a hard pan and although the soil is good to a certain depth beyond that it turns hard and they break it up before ploughing and rotavating  ..  Have you ever thought of trying the Dowding no dig and see how it works ....

I haven't tried it on a large scale, but I have tried it on a few 'trial' beds in the past. I found that mulching on a grand scale is almost as much work as digging! Well not quite. The other thing I found is that you need to get rid of all traces of perennial weeds and you need to cover the area with thick cardboard (or similar material) first, otherwise you'll have a tough time with weeds. Whilst mulch dampens weeds down for a while, it will not get rid of them, and depending on what you use for your mulch, many weed seeds (which you inadvertently introduce in your mulching material) find a lovely environment to germinate. It's also messy looking (although that is not a prime consideration when growing I know - but I'm old fashioned, I like my plot and the beds on it to look nice as well as productive). In fact I use this method of mulching for my rhubarb patch and EVERY year the weeds take over. I also use a grass mulch on things like peas, beans and similar grops. That's a mulch applied over an area that's been cultivated, the result is weed suppression, moisture retention and a nice clean rich area to rotovate in the autumn when all that grass mulch is turned into the soil.

It's not an either or choice. Neither is it a competition between the no dig method and other methods. It's horses for courses. What you need is a blend of techniques. Sowing fine seeds in drills on mulch can be a challenging experience, when compared to sowing in fine tilth. However in some situations the no dig method has it's advantages.

From my experience, rotovating (when done properly) coupled to the liberal use of humus rich manure works a treat, and when it comes to weeds, nothing disheartens them more than being constantly 'roughed up' by a rotovator - most of them eventually give up. Some swear that rotovating makes the weed problem worse, that can be the case if you rip through soil with perennial weed roots in it once a year - you'll suffer the consequences, but use the rotovator with the proper skills and sense needed has the opposite effect.

As for digging by hand it IS therapeutic, if you're young, fit and don't have a stiff back! When you're older it's still therapeutic and peaceful BUT it can also stress you out, because of the work input required for the output you generate. Fine for a postage stamp size veg. patch behind the house. On a 2502m plot? Not so appealing!
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Westheathdave

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2015, 06:19:45 PM »

I do not dig my plot as I have got raised beds I do have a lot of clay most of the soil round these parts is clay there are a lot of clay pitts in the general area. I personally  like the no dig method and have read Charles article in the past. BUT I need an argument settling as people are telling me NOT TO USE COW MANURE ON CLAY AS IT MAKES IT TOO WET  They say horse manure is best, what do you all know about this theory IS IT TRUE.
I am sure I will get to know the truth with all the brains we got on here. Thanks in anticipation.  chrs:-)
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Big Gee

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2015, 10:23:21 PM »

If you tip cow slurry on your soil it will certainly add to the moisture!  :-)snigger However there is more to manure than the muck. The humus content is important - that's the bedding that's included in the manure (usually straw), whether it's cow or horse muck it's important thant it has plenty of bedding mixed in with it. Both will do clay soil a power of good.

Horse or cow muck varies in texture depending on the time of year it's used and the diet of the animal. Horse manure is often drier because they are usually fed dry hay, cows are often fed on silage. Either is equally as good. Horse manure has always been a favourite with gardeners because it tends to be nicer to work with, but from a nutrient point of view it's pretty much a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Nutritional Value (NPK) of Horse & Cow Manure
Horse Manure/ Cow Manure
 Nitrogen Content                           0.7%/ 0.6%
 Phosphorus Content                   0.3%/ 0.4%
 Potassium (Potash) Content           0.6%/ 0.5%

Because cow manure is often more wet than horse manure (mainly due to diet), it's often said that horse manure is better for wet soils, like heavy clays. It seems logical enough but when you think it through, the amount of liquid in the manure isn't really going to effect the soil.

It really makes no difference whether you use horse or cow manure to add fertility and humus to your soil whatever the soil type so long as it is well aged or composted first.

Sometimes you can find a farmer willing to sell a load of cow manure from a barn mixed with straw. If offered this, then by all means accept it as it can be used as the basis of a hot compost heap, a hot bed or just covered over to rot down for a few months before applying directly to the field.

Fresh horse manure also tends to heat up a bit more than fresh cow manure, however both, if left long enough to decompose and turn into black crumply compost after a year or two.

So I wouldn't stop using cow manure (with plenty of humus) on clay, just because you can't find the horsey stuff!
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scary crow

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2015, 10:32:17 PM »

Some say cow is better than horse as it has less seeds in it if it,s been through a cows stomachs ....   And another good thing for clay soil is sand and grit ..
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Westheathdave

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2015, 12:02:09 AM »

Thanks for that in depth report Gee Well that's cleared that one up nicely. Scary probably need an awfull lot of grit and sand I would think   :-)snigger
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dimogga

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2015, 09:24:25 AM »

Normally we have cow muck and the last lot had a load of fat hen seeds in. That's a nuisance.

This time I got some horse muck and it was SO much easier to move. Less layers of straw I suspect and drier - which makes it easier to move fork fulls. 
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Lottylady

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2015, 10:39:56 AM »

well usually I buy sacks of country compact at a reduced price.......mixed with fibre......but when we are really lucky ......we get a delivery of what I call black gold........the queens horse 'arisings'....yep they don't call it muck....they call it arisings........ :D .....well we only get a few deliveries but we rush up there and wheelbarrow it back to plot ......black gold as its dark....rich and has helped me grow some some lovely stuff.
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lottieguy

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2015, 11:35:32 AM »

Hi Ya, I like the idea of no dig and a woman just up the site from me is an avid no dig fan. I gave it a go where I grow my brassica's and mulched the area with spent mushroom compost and rotted manure. It certainly kept the weeds down and I was suprised how soft and pliable the soil is underneath. I compost horse muck as here the cows are very few and far between. I made the mistake of putting a trailer load of horse's arisings direct to the soil and the weeds had a feild day growing like mad. I am still paying the price now and it was annual grass seed which is a real pain. You still get a few weed seeds if you compost it but if the temreture gets up it does kill most. I tend to cultivate the plot as to the needs of crops. I compost and rotavate the spud and bean ground, the area for corrots and parsnips has compost from pots and greenhouse spred on and ratavated, the cabbage ground is composted a couple of months after liming and left to get on with it. I will get more mushy compost when I can and mulch with that aswell on the cabbage ground. I dig the perenial weeds out the cabbage area but try to leave it as is coz the brassy's like firm ground I beleive. Mind you weed control can be annoying when some one like we have has a strange way of doing it and the weeds on their site are prolific and spread like wildfire. Still every one has their own way of doing things and so long as they are happy and it works for them then crack on. Also I don't seem to get the time to dig. Our soil is sandy and hungry ground and drainage very good. So I suppose I am a cultivate and no dig in a oner. One old boy told me "keep your hoe moving thats the best thing" and I beleive it to be true. Little and often they say. Happy gardening.
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dimogga

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2015, 11:43:56 AM »

There's something in the Bob Flowerdew Lazy gardener book about hoeing. A jobbing gardener told him not to hoe so much else he'd be out of a job in a few weeks :)
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Big Gee

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2015, 12:28:39 PM »

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Normally we have cow muck and the last lot had a load of fat hen seeds in. That's a nuisance.

This time I got some horse muck and it was SO much easier to move. Less layers of straw I suspect and drier - which makes it easier to move fork fulls.

Fat Hen usually follows a good dollop of manure. Possibly because the seed goes through the gut of the animal whose manure is being used, or, based on another school of thought, some say Fat Hen will only grow on particularly fertile and nitrogen rich soil. So soil that's rich in nutrients from the application of manure may be producing Fat Hen, because it's the preferred place for it to grow, and not necessarily because it's seeds have been carried there by the manure.

I personally think it's a little bit of both and the real reason probably lies somewhere in the middle! Incidentally you can eat Fat Hen - when cooked young it's particularly palatable apparently. I've never tried it myself.

Check out more info about Fat Hen here:
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dimogga

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2015, 02:48:55 PM »

Have researched fat hen! Have nibbled on it but never took it in and used it like spinach.
I don't have much on my plot but I had covered the beds with so many plants that very little breaks through in the way of weeds.

We did have to ask the less frequent visiting plot holders to take the stuff off before it seeded.
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scary crow

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2015, 08:38:11 PM »

Think any manure if properly composted is good for the plot but read this and be careful where your manure comes from ..
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Westheathdave

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2015, 09:39:47 PM »

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Think any manure if properly composted is good for the plot but read this and be careful where your manure comes from ..
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Wow thats a bit worrying certainly don't want that on the plot.
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Big Gee

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2015, 10:29:15 PM »

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Think any manure if properly composted is good for the plot but read this and be careful where your manure comes from ..
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You could have got that info here from the 'Shed' Scary!   CW ;-)

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scary crow

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Re: 2 dig or not 2 dig
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2015, 10:34:18 PM »

Tell you what when i read that article I thought i had read it somewhere else now i know where it was  ROL :-))  ..   I have riding stables about 12 houses from me he stacks all his old manure and straw  on a field just up the road from me a large amount of it is as black as my peat now ..  Worth asking before you collect manure would be a disaster to collect contaminated  stuff  ..
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