DIGGING OR NON-DIGGING - A brief history
The controversial and fashionable practice of non-digging has caused controversy in the gardening world, yet it is as old as the human race. Adam, I am sure had not yet invented the spade, nor saddled his first horse to pull his home-made plough. He lived on wild berries and possibly insects, worms (not the serpent!), but any other living creature or plant which he tasted and found appetising. I doubt whether he ever grafted an apple tree, but he was the David Attenborough of his day. Man and animals (not then wild), lived in total harmony. So the Garden of Eden we may take it, was the first and greatest non-dug area.
Of course the local population was so small and the weather so ideal that there were sufficient berries, fruit and seeds available that all Adam's family could have been vegetarians!!! Increases in population - man and beast, break down the system, causing shortages until there comes a time for drastic adjustment.
First, man would become carnivorous, and the majority of the juiciest animals would become a source of nutrition, until that animal realised that its future was in doubt and became 'wild', at which point some other creature became a victim.
The process continues, the human population grows until another crisis occurs - shortage of plants for food - and animals distrusting humans and going 'wild'. Up to now the plants have been shedding their leaves on the soil, the animals manuring it as they stood eating the leaves and the balance has been restored. Now the balance is getting a little bit uneven, and something must be done.
Some bright spark thinks, tries it out and proves, that loosening up the soil, looking for food, improves the growing potential of plants and so hard work and digging become fashionable. Great - but hard work. So let's get the animals to do the job. Invent the plough. Try the elephant. He is the biggest. No, he eats and drinks too much. Let's try the ox, horse and ass. For years riding on the ass has been a mode of transport, so let's try his bigger cousin, the horse. Ideal.
Later generations find that the use of certain chemicals also helps in the growth of the crop, and so evolves the modern farming and gardening of the 20th century. Then comes in a new cult. Organic cultivation - no chemicals, nutrients, pesticides and weed killers. All's well until everyone wants it.
Question: Where do we get enough organic matter to rot down to grow the amount of organic food we need to feed the whole nation, or world population? More to the point where can we grow the organic matter to produce the organic crops?
The latest idea is the non-digging cult, perhaps an offshoot of organic gardening. In this method a large amount of preferably organic matter is being maintained on the surface of the soil, and seeds and plants are put in among the organic mulch. This is ideal. No hard work (digging), and really back to nature, as this has been happening since plants evolved. Example - woodland conditions where no cultivation has taken place, yet the trees flourish. This condition is again ideal in the garden, when supplying an abundance of organic matter for nutrients. You need an army of worms to aerate the soil and drag the organic matter underground. Organic gardening and non-digging techniques are very desirable aims, but the resources available seem limited, and eventually will only be available to a few. On a worldwide scale either would seem unattainable.
Good luck to those who practise these techniques. Make best use of them while you can, but the feeding of the world's future increasing population will have to be found elsewhere.