In this new full-colour edition of Organic Gardening, Charles Dowding shares the wealth of his experience, explaining his approach to soil and plants and revealing the range of techniques that have enabled him to grow healthy and vibrant crops for decades. Charles has been practising no-dig organic growing for over 30 years. In this new, full-colour edition of Organic Gardening he shares the wealth of his experience, explaining his approach to soil and plants and revealing the range of techniques that have enabled him to grow healthy and vibrant plants for decades. His success is based on some key principles: * No-dig enhances soil structure and encourages healthy growth, especially when soil life is encouraged and multiplied through the addition of good compost and manure. * Organic matter is best spread on the surface - just leave it on top and let the worms take it in, aerating the soil as they do so. * When starting with weedy soil there is a period of three to twelve months, depending on weed types, when the emphasis is on cleaning and improving the soil.
* Using a no-dig method you can easily control weeds with just a little hand weeding or hoeing every ten days or so, when weeds are small. Based on this approach and his experience of a system of permanent, slightly raised beds, Charles shows you how to grow a delicious variety of fruit and vegetables: what to choose, when to sow, plant and harvest, and how best to avoid pests and diseases.
Charles is a veteran organic grower, having practised no-dig gardening for 30 years. From 1982 to 1990 he grew on nine acres for local and London markets, then ran a small farm in France, followed by a long spell of producing salad on an acre of surface-composted, undisturbed clay soil (no-dig for 15 years), which grew bountiful crops and few weeds, and included two polytunnels for winter salad and summer tomatoes and basil. In this garden he ran an experiment for six years to compare differences in growth between vegetables on dug and undug soil. He discovered different patterns of growth in most seasons, with slightly lower yields and more weeds and slugs on the dug beds. He is currently establishing a new half-acre garden to illustrate no-dig practice and form the basis for a new experiment. Charles has written four books on vegetable growing, contributes articles to many magazines, including Gardeners' World, Gardens Illustrated and Grow It!, gives regular talks, advises many gardeners on best practice, including the National Trust at Sissinghurst, and runs day courses at home and other venues. He has appeared on radio and television, including Radio 4's The Long View on the Peckham Experiment and BBC TV's Gardeners' World with Sarah Raven in 2008. Find out more at www.charlesdowding.co.uk. Photo: Stephanie Hafferty