A morning of No Dig Gardening with Charles Dowding

I received an invitation to visit Charles Dowding's garden near Shepton Mallet to find out more about 'No Dig' vegetable growing and to learn about his new book 'Charles Dowding's No dig gardening Course 1'   I am going to whisper very quietly that I try my hardest not to dig anyway, which actually made the reason to go even more acute as I was fascinated to see what he had to say.

and when I say fascinated, I mean I was prepared and did drive for three hours to get there and back in a day.  I have not done a lot of driving in the last five months so this felt like quite a challenge, but I really wanted to go.
The garden is not huge, around a third of an acre, and it is pretty much all turned over to growing vegetables.  It is used as a trial garden so some borders are dig and some no dig so that Charles can test his theories.  It all looked immaculate and due to the system Charles uses, he does not spend lots of time weeding.  Let's just say that 'mulch' is his friend.  If you look you can see that the paths are pretty much mulch too.  These are not raised beds with wooden sides, though Charles does sometimes use wood to make the template for a border.  Charles told us that wooden/hard material sides can act as a haven for slugs and snails and it is better to just heap the border to raise it.  This was totally eye-opening for me as I have been watching the wooden edges of my raised beds rot away and have been thinking for some time about replacing them.  Now I am inspired to follow Charles's lead and have woodchip/mulch paths between my borders.  Watch this space as they say.
Charles has an impressive compost set up, but it is also very simple.  He turns one bay into the next just once and it soon provides fine grade compost that he needs.
I really liked that Charles keeps notes on the compost shelter that tell him when a bay is started/turned.  I think the words that define Charles' approach are 'simple' and 'practical'.  Nothing is complicated or convoluted.  That is very much music to my ears!
We talked about mesh a lot.  This was a really useful discussion for me as I bought mesh with holes in it so large the butterflies almost could not fly through it because they were laughing at me so much.  Lesson learned. 
I had serious aubergine envy.
This is the trial area where Charles is seeing if crop rotation is as beneficial as we may think it is.  Charles has been growing the same crops here for a few years now and they certainly look healthy enough.  I was astonished and impressed and also if I had got a rule-book I would have ripped it up there and then. 
We wandered through the poly tunnel...
admired the loofas
and, quite frankly, hung on Charles's every word.  Well I did anyway.  The word 'inspirational' is over used, so I will just say I left the morning completely inspired.  
I also left with a signed copy of Charles's book. I was given the book so I have not paid for it, but I am under no obligation to write about it and my words and opinions are as ever my own.

It is such a good book as it is very much a course.  It is the online course Charles runs but in book form.  It is packed with information and has a quiz at the end of each section.  The quiz is brilliant as if you cannot answer the question you (ok, I) just have to go back over the section to find the answer.  This is so much more efficient than just reading it and hoping it sinks in.  Of course I am not going to talk you through everything Charles said, you really do have to buy the book.
We were also given a copy of Charles's 2021 Calendar, which is full of wonderful photographs and great tips and prompts when to sow, plant and harvest.  

I genuinely left the morning buzzing with excitement and determined to change how I grow vegetables in future.  Regular readers will know I have been container growing most of my veg this year and that will continue, it has worked well for some vegetables but not so good for others.  I have wanted to revamp my veg garden and now I know how.

So I have to give a massive thank you to Charles and Steph and Emma Mason PR for such a good morning.  I learned lots and came away inspired.  
There is a part two to this day as going to Somerset was a bit of a schlep from Leicester and Emma kindly arranged for us to be able to go on to The Newt which is nearby.  More of that another time.....

Stay safe all and be kind.


  1. Very interesting! I need to look into "No Dig" gardening further as it has come up a few times now.

  2. I love gardening, especially vegetables. I have some of them in polybag

  3. That sounds like a great day out. I've followed him for a few years now, you're right it is fascinating. Next year I am going to remove the wooden sides of my raised beds.

  4. l enjoyed reading about your visit. I was lucky enough to go hear Charles speak last year and met Steph, too, when Maryline of Rural and Rustic arranged a talk by him not far from me. I really enjoyed it. I pretty much use the no dig method. I use my own compost, bought compost and chicken poo to mulch on top of empty beds at this time of the year and for the first time will have leaf mulch to use. I wish I had space enough for bins that big but I think as long as I can make some of my own every little helps. I have beds with wooden edges and some of mine, after 4 years, are rotting away in parts. I would be worried about removing them as I have issue with ground elder and so far have managed to keep it out of the beds. I plan on covering the areas between my beds with membrane and pebble stone for next year so maybe I'll consider it then.

  5. This is fascinating! I will have to learn more about this method of gardening. Always good to know a variety of tips and tricks!

  6. Looks like a wonderful garden, I wish I had 1/4 acre in which to grow vegetables.
    Our garden is quite large, but long and narrow with a tall hedge one side, so one side doesn't get enough sun to grow a lot (the hedge is on the south side) and only part of the other side is available for planting veg. One day...


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