“No-Dig” Garden Bed Produces 20% More Veggies than Tilled Bed Next to It

Man grows 20% more veggies by doing WAY less work, proving tilling your garden beds is counterproductive

They might not look much different, but the “no-dig” garden on the left produced 26 more pounds of vegetables last spring than the bed on the right that took hours to till and weed. Credit: Charles Dowding

For the last 15 years, British permaculture gardener Charles Dowding has planted two identical garden beds side by side. Each year, he treats the gardens the same way, making them the same size, giving them the same amount of water, sunlight and compost… planting the same seeds in the same pattern.

The only difference is he digs one of the garden beds up each year before planting, turning the top six inches of soil, weeds and compost over with a shovel.

For millennia, farmers have tilled the soil as a means of burying “weeds” and bringing a flush of nutrients from underneath up to the top.

Dowding has been one of several “no-dig” gardening pioneers working to show tilling is not a sustainable practice long-term.

While it can produce good results the first year, over time it depletes nutrients and kills the millions of micro-organisms that make the soil alive, by exposing them to the sun.

For each of the last 15 years, Dowding’s no-dig garden beds have yielded between 10% and 25% more pounds of vegetables than his tilled beds.

He attributes this mainly to the disruption of the mycorrhizal network – the web of fungi that transfers water and nutrients between plant roots.

And the difference in yields is getting greater over time, as documented on Dowding’s website.

It’s not often you produce more goods by doing less work, but when it comes to tilling, that’s exactly the case!

There is not only NO benefit from tilling, you are literally wasting hours breaking your back for a worse result!

On top of time spent shoveling soil, the tilled garden beds also end up with more weeds and thus require more labor spent on weeding, Dowding says in his latest video.

So join the no-till revolution… just keep adding a layer of compost on top after each winter and poke little holes with your fingers to plant seeds.