Retro gardening technique has a history in Doncaster and is coming back into style

Columnist Lydia Lakemoore explores the history of an unusual gardening method in Doncaster and shares her techniques to get it right at home.

By Laura Andrew
Friday, 28th February 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 11:13 am

‘No-dig’ is an organic gardening method.

In no-dig gardening, you do not dig down into the soil.

Instead, you layer compost over the top of your existing soil.

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CAPTION: *Photos show Ray and his family on their no-dig allotment. The script written on the back of each photo reads ‘Ray – John – Ma. Allotment Garden. Bentley Yorks. Age 25 1960. 1st Prize (council). My father George’s Garden without digging.’

It sounds rather simple and easy…because it is.

The no-dig method promotes soil health because you are adding to the composition of the soil rather than taking anything away.

Also, without the need for digging this technique makes gardening much easier on the back too.

Currently being brought to prominence by author Charles Dowding this method has recently surged in popularity (do look out for his YouTube channel, it is fantastic!).

CAPTION: *Photos show Ray and his family on their no-dig allotment. The script written on the back of each photo reads ‘Ray – John – Ma. Allotment Garden. Bentley Yorks. Age 25 1960. 1st Prize (council). My father George’s Garden without digging.’

However, I have discovered that ‘no-dig’ has its own history within our very own Doncaster.

In 1960 at an allotment garden in Bentley, Doncaster, a local gentleman named George Tracery Smith, aged 25 at the time, was awarded first prize by the council for his ‘Garden Without Digging.’

George’s son, Ray Smith, has shared with me his memories of helping his father on the allotment.

He told me of how they would pile up the compost to build up the beds, to prevent weeds and how it was better for the soil.

Method for ‘no-dig’ gardening in your own garden:

Before you begin, decide where in your garden you would like to prepare your new no-dig bed.

The surface must be earth (ie not concrete or patio).

Step one: Collect some old cardboard boxes and remove all the sticky tape.

Step two: Lay the cardboard flat on the ground where you intend to grow your food or flowers.

Step three: Wet/dampen the flattened cardboard.

Step four: Now add compost directly on top of your cardboard.I personally have found that around 15cm height of fresh compost is the minimum amount needed.

Step five: Finally plant your seeds or seedlings directly into that compost.The roots of the plant will naturally grow down through the cardboard as the plant grows and the cardboard decomposes.