The One Common Gardening Practice You Should Ditch ASAP

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Let’s face it: gardening is a lot of hard work.

Between planting, weeding and mowing your lawn – not to mention any pesky bug invasions or unwelcome weather – it sometimes feels like a gardener’s work is never done.

Thankfully, though, the green-fingered population of the UK has recently been given some respite.

First came the news that we’re not really meant to use weedkillers. Then, it turned out that over-mowing in summer can cause grass to die (yes, really).

And now, it seems that digging – exhausting double digging in particular – has been given the gardening-gloved thumbs down by the pros.

Here’s why digging can be so bad for your garden – and what you can do instead.

Digging can spell disaster for your soil’s oxygen levels

Most gardeners will at least be familiar with the idea that turning over the soil between seasons (especially when we come into autumn) is good for your garden.

The logic goes that the process aerates the soil and helps to banish weeds. But, as ethnobotanist James Wong writes for The Guardian, “this backbreaking job not only has often failed to deliver such benefits, but may in some cases have the exact opposite effect”. Oh.

This is partly because turning over soil, especially if you’re doing it aggressively, can kill earthworms.

The little legless legends are great at driving channels through our soil, providing the much-needed aeration that gardeners attempt to create by digging.

On top of that, worms also eat decaying plants and excrete nutrient-rich dung.

Plus, too much digging can over-aerate your soil. If your ground is compacted but is still plantable, The National Botanic Garden of Wales recommends growing large-rooted plants like teasel to loosen the dirt.

Disrupting the soil can cause more weed growth – not less

This makes sense when you think about it, as turning over the soil brings new weed seeds to its surface.

“Digging can inadvertently bring weed seeds and roots to the surface where they can germinate and grow,” says Gardener’s World. “By not digging, you leave these undisturbed.“

No wonder the Royal Horticultural Society says its no-dig veggie patches are so easy to weed.

Your soil is perfectly happy with its current biome provider, thank you very much

If you’ve so much as picked up a trowel, chances are you know that soil is much more than just dirt.

“Billions of fungal threads, nematodes and earthworms – to name but a few – are being helpful right under our feet,” says gardening pro Chris Dowding.

And when we dig them up, the sudden sunlight exposure can cause accidental mass murder.

No wonder Gardener’s World says that no-dig veggies grow faster, have fewer pests, are stronger, face less water-logging, and even release less carbon than their frequently-tilled counterparts.

So, what do I do instead of digging?

Mulch and compost appear to be the answer. That’s right – it turns out that adding more to the soil is much more beneficial than taking some away.

Wong shares that mulch and compost “quickly break down naturally through the action of friendly bacteria and is then drawn down into the soil by worms, boosting the populations of both these organisms that essentially do the digging for you”.

He adds that everything from wood chips to homemade compost will do the job.

Why work harder when you can work smarter (and less often)?