Royal Paddocks Allotments website masthead
email icon

Any comments, ideas or suggestions for what you’d like to see on the website? Please email us.

The anzwer lies in the zoil....

Date posted: Thursday 30th January 2020

The anzwer lies in the zoil....

Fans of ‘Beyond Our Ken’ will recall farmer Arthur Fallowfield’s (only) horticultural gems of wisdom: ‘Well, I think the answer lies in the soil’, in Kenneth Williams’ rich west country drawl! (Arthur Fallowfield, was based on Dorset farmer Ralph Wightman, who was a regular contributor to the BBC radio programme “Any Questions?” The scripts were full of innuendo and double entendre – on one occasion Horne introduced him as the man who put the sex in Sussex.) Well, turns out that Arthur was ahead of the game; the rich eco-systems and biodiversity of soil are key to producing healthy produce and sustainable gardening practice. I’ve been looking at the ‘no dig’ system developed by Charles Dowding and it does make a lot of sense.

As with gardening for wildlife, it’s not about just ‘doing nothing’. With no dig the principles are that the organisms already present in soil are the most effective agents for soil health: ‘Throughout the soil, there is a proliferation of beneficial bacteria and fungi such as mycorrhizae. They help plant roots to find nutrients and moisture, which may often have been present already, but sometimes remain unavailable to roots if biological activity is low. Most soil already has structure for roots to grow and nutrients to feed plants, and it is full of growth-enabling organisms. Billions of fungal threads, nematodes and earthworms – to name but a few – are being helpful right under our feet. We need to help them to help us.’
The principles seem to me to be very sound. Dowding advocates the application of thick layers of organic compost, manures or mulches after the growing season, protecting the soil during winter, drawn down by the worms and organisms in the soil and producing nutrients for the next year’s crops. Weeding is easier as the compost layers suppress them and hand or hoeing is all that’s then required. Chemical fertilisers are not used: ‘Chemical fertilisers are a risky and polluting way to feed plants because they are mostly water soluble, damage soil fungi, and may be leached out by rain before plants can use them all.’ No Dig Organic Gardening – Charles Dowding | No Dig

It would be great to see more plotholders reducing or eliminating completely the use of toxic chemicals on our site; perhaps we can aspire to be a totally organic based allotments in the near future!

My hellebores are looking lovely, snowdrops and the first yellow crocuses are flowering on my plot and a large patch of violets are out in Church Grove Walk. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had a mix of heavy night and morning frosts followed by cold, bright sunny days, interspersed with milder, dull and overcast skies that make you want to book holidays! And now more heavy rain this morning, so a good day for staying in and catching up with January blog work!

If you know of a news story which you think might be of interest to plotholders please send an email to let us know: