Posts Tagged ‘GIY Gathering’


The idea of a no-dig way to prepare a pasture for growing field vegetables sounds too good to be true, especially if one has put out the back digging in the past. Áine and myself met the guru of the no-dig method, Charles Dowding, while attending the GIY Gathering in Waterford last October 2013. We bought his book ‘Organic Gardening, The natural no-dig way’. ( Now is the time to put words into action.

Áine and her sprong covering the no-dig beds furthest from the house with manure cardboard and more manure before topping with a black plastic cover.

Áine and her sprong covering the no-dig beds furthest from the house with manure cardboard and more manure before topping with a black plastic cover.

We could be described as a la carte no-diggers. Half of the new veg beds are having their sod turned before covering with manure and the other half (which may be left a year longer before we grow any fruit or veg in it) is being prepared without digging. Before preparing the dig or no-dig beds the bulk of the healthy pasture grass has to be mown or strimmed where it is too thick for the mower. Sheep would have been handy but not available at the time as it so happens.

With the grass cut and removed to be composted, the no-dig beds were marked out and covered, first with manure, then cardboard and the light cardboard was weighed down with more manure. Each bed was then finished off with a re-useable black plastic cover to speed up decomposition, prevent weed seed blowing in and stop leaching of nutrients with rainfall. We are in no hurry to use these beds so after a year or so, we hope the worms and other soil life will have created a vibrant piece of earth in which to sow and plant more fruit and vegetables.



Covering a beetroot layer with sand in the partially buried plastic box. The leaves have be twisted off and are ready for the compost. The patch is beside the leeks, from where the garlic crop was harvested in September last.

The beetroot patch needs to be cleared, before it can be dressed with mature compost and wood ash. This is where the garlic cloves will be planted shortly – and so the ‘roots’ patch gives way to the ‘allium’ patch in the 4 year organic vegetable rotation system.

Digging up the mature ‘Jannis’ beetroots , sown on 3rd May last, is very easy with a fork. The main priority is not to damage them. Last year I bottled most of the beetroot harvest. I still have a jar of pickled beetroot or two left from that time! So this time, I will store them in a way suggested by TV celeb gardener and writer, Alys Fowler,  at the GIY Gathering in Waterford in September last.

First, a suitable plastic container is retrieved from the attic with a lid to ensure rain cannot enter. Then a bag of horticultural sand is found in the shed. Builders’ sand will do also. A hole to fit the shape is dug in a vacant piece of soil to sink the box about three quarters down. Some sand is poured in to cover just the base of the box. Then the leaves are twisted off the beetroots and the beets are laid like chocolates in a box, not touching each other! Another layer of sand covers these and another layer of beetroots is arranged carefully and so on until the box is capped off with a final layer of sand. The rain proof lid is all that is seen in the end above ground, with a rock on top to prevent the wind uncovering the beetroot bounty.

When retrieving beetroots for a meal, from month to month ahead, a cursory inspection ensures no rotting is going on. Any rotting beets need to be whipped out and assigned to the compost bin. One way to prevent rotting is to harvest the beetroots on a dry day so the soil can be more easily rubbed off the beets before they are put in storage.