When you are gardening in a polytunnel, there are several big questions about how best to care for the plants and the soil ecosystem in which they are growing. One of the important questions that new polytunnel gardeners will have to answer is whether they will operate a dig or no-dig system.
In a dig system, in order to ensure that nutrition is not depleted too much in the soil, compost or manure is dug into the beds or growing areas in the spring. This method, say proponents, also allows you to aerate the soil and do away with any problems with compaction.
In a permaculture growing system, however, a 'no dig' system is usually in force. In a 'no dig' system, compost, manure or mulches are laid over the existing soil level of the beds or growing areas. Rather than digging in the materials, these are left to decompose naturally on the surface, leaving the soil ecosystem to flourish relatively undisturbed.
There are a number of benefits to the 'no dig' system, which arise from the flourishing soil ecosystem. Firstly, since the soil is left (mostly) undisturbed, the organisms that live within it are better able to do their work. Earth worms will help to aerate the soil as they move through it, also enriching the soil as they go. Fungal and bacterial networks can transport nutrients and work their magic without disruption. There is a lot going on in the soil, and we rely on it working as a fully functioning ecosystem in order to grow healthy crops. It makes sense to allow it to remain as undisturbed as possible in order to do its job.
Of course, there is another benefit to no dig systems. In the no dig system, we do not need to work as hard to create healthy and productive growing areas. It is an easier system for gardeners, without the back-breaking labour of turning over the soil and forking in the fertile matter.
The harvest that can be obtained from a 'no dig' system has been shown in studies to be larger and healthier than one produced using a more traditional 'dig' method of gardening. Learn more about mulches and feeds for your polytunnel and keep the soil ecosystem flourishing by embracing the 'no dig' polytunnel gardening techniques and you could be eating better than ever before.