Speaker: Paul Templeton
Date: 25th March
Paul has been growing vegetables for over 40 years and advocates the “No-Dig” method of cultivation. A native of Scotland he now lives in Emsworth and cultivates plots of from between 6 acres and 1/16 acres. He told us he has gardened from 250 mile north to 250 miles south from here and taught in Horticultural Colleges.
He told us that what puts most students/people off gardening is “digging” and advised us all to throw away our spades and forks! He recommends three tools; two types of hoe, a mattock type and a stirrup type, a cultivator, and a ridger, which acts like a plough and ridges up the top soil. These tools can all be used without strain standing up.
His ideal growing medium would be 4” of dry, aerated mulch, on top of 1” wet, nutrient rich humus on top of a layer of any type of soil.
To prepare the ground, first cut the heads off the annual weeds with the stirrup hoe, and then use the mattock hoe to break up the ground, then the cultivator to grub up the harder roots and leave them to die also, then ridge up the top soil to make it deeper with the ridger. Make a furrow along the top of the ridges to take seeds. Make holes for potatoes with an iron bar or similar.
Paul advised us to keep the ground covered throughout the year either with dead plants (mulch) or live plants (leaves of growing plants). He uses straw to mulch his ground through the winter and starts gardening in March, he then removes the straw to plant and when the plants are big enough mulches gradually with (humus) compost. The straw gradually disappears as worms take it down into the soil.
Paul advised us to hoe carefully around close to the plants but not to remove the weeds from the garden. Make sure they die in the sun and leave them on the surface. Weeds further away from the plants can be left as the bigger crop plant takes up the most water. Don’t dig in the compost, rain water will cause the nutrients to flow into the soil and Paul never waters his land as the mulch retains the moisture.
He also told us that only 1% of slugs eat leaves and the bigger slugs are carnivores and eat other slugs. Hover fly larvae eat aphids so encourage the adult fly by sowing nectar plants like borage, poppies and phacelia tanacetifolia close by. Beetles are also helpful to the gardener.
Paul’s interesting and thought provoking message seems to be don’t dig and mix up the layers of the growing medium, and don’t overly disturb the interconnectivity of the various components of the growing system considered as a whole.