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No Dig by Charles Dowding

No Dig: Nurture your soil to grow better veg with less effort by Charles Dowding – book review

A comprehensive guide to no dig from the guru of vegetable growing, Charles Dowding, that has been refreshingly updated with an ecological approach. Reviewer Alison Jenkins is a designer specialising in edible gardens.

Our review

The ultimate, no-dig bible for those wanting to learn more about how to care for the soil when growing vegetables

Dorling Kindersley, £30 ISBN 978-0241541814


I did wonder what more another book could add to the wealth of information on no-dig vegetable gardening already out there, not least in Charles Dowding’s numerous previous books and social media channels. However, this is described as his ultimate no-dig bible. What sets it apart is how his increasing knowledge of ecological issues, such as the influence of soil microbiology on growing conditions and the commercial threat to open-pollinated varieties, is woven throughout the book.

The first third of the book gives a practical overview of how to get started on your no-dig vegetable-growing journey, while the remainder focuses on the cultivation
of individual crops. It’s a comprehensive handbook for someone at the start of their growing journey or for those who have been growing for a while but want to transition to
a no-dig, ecological approach.

I particularly liked the Delve Deeper sections, which drop in bite-sized chunks of science in a clear, accessible way. Gaining an understanding of complex interactions, such as the way living plant roots create a symbiotic relationship with soil microbes, really helps to make sense of why certain practices, such as using green manures, are so beneficial.

The seasoned grower could gain some insights, too, as Dowding shares the really useful bits of knowledge picked up over 40 years of hands-on experience. I learned, for instance, that the reason French beans often yellow after planting is that they can’t photosynthesise at low temperatures and that it’s better to sow late turnips in August rather than July to avoid insect damage.

Such deeply practical tips give the book a substantial edge. You sense the guiding hand of a wise mentor as passionate about passing on his knowledge as he is about growing food.


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