No-dig gardening is ideal for kids

The Great Green Team

25 April 2023

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Sustainable lifestyle

If you work with nature, she doesn’t fight back with weeds.

 That’s the view of horticulturalist Charles Dowding, the champion of no-dig gardening.

His new book, No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book, shows youngsters how they can work with nature using compost and mulch to create healthy soil, copying nature’s way of feeding plants through the soil.

 Charles believes the no-dig method is ideal for children because they come to gardening with an open mind and no preconceived ideas.

The no-dig method involves creating beds by covering weeds with cardboard, spreading compost on top, walking on top of the compost (a child-friendly activity if ever there was one) to create a bed that is ready to plant into.  

His book includes the following topics:

  • What makes soil healthy
  • How to make compost
  • The power of microbes
  • Upcycling in the garden
  • Attracting wildlife
  • How to be a garden scientist
  • Easy-grow flowers and vegetables
  • Gardening for children with additional needs.

 Charles says, ‘Nature wants plants to grow as much as we do.’

He says ‘no-dig’ is simple and quick and will inspire children to make beds any month of the year. They can then watch their plants grow, see how good they taste, and feel their knowledge and happiness growing at the same time.

The method eliminates ‘unnecessary jobs that until now have been done by so many gardeners’.

Anyone who has experienced the benefits of gardening will agree with Charles’s belief that gardening teaches us a great deal, whatever our age.  

The following is an extract from an interview with Charles Dowding in the current edition of The Green Parent.

How did your no-dig method evolve?

 I wanted to grow healthy foods. I started organic gardening in 1982 but realised that was only the first step. It was a gut feeling that there was a connection between soil, plants, animals and people. It led me to think about what was in the soil, what life; at the time nobody was talking about it. But it’s only recently I’ve started talking about it and presenting it to the world.

No-dig frees you up to spend your time in the garden more creatively; how do you like to do that?

You inherit this Victorian notion that plants have to be regimented, grown in rows. I like tidiness, that’s admirable, but what I really want is beauty. I like to introduce flowers here there and everywhere. It’s easier because the biggest bonus with no-dig is that you get no weeds! And the most creative thing you can do is make compost. That’s the ultimate creative act. 

Is no-dig especially suited to kids?

Yes. Older people might find it more difficult to accept that what they might consider the right way to garden is maybe not so clever after all. They have to unlearn, but children come to it fresh. But it all makes sense. Kids love the process; that you’re not disturbing the natural life and creatures below the surface, so that carries on working to keep the soil open and aerated and make nutrition for the plant roots.

What benefits does gardening have for kids?

It’s not just about being in the fresh air. It’s about the good bacteria that are floating around; we pick them up and use them to make serotonin. That’s why we feel good being outside. You find tryptophan in plants and vegetables and that makes your mood better. If you eat a bit of soil that’s got the same biome as a healthy gut, the same microbes.

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