Online Course 1, No Dig Gardening
A practical, online course written by Charles Dowding – a world authority on no dig gardening, with 38 years of experience.
- 19 lessons
- 48,000 words
- 632 photos with detailed captions
- 28 exclusive videos
- Lifetime access
For anyone wishing to learn the no dig method, or to consolidate what they already know. The course works for beginners and experienced gardeners alike (see the feedback below), and teaches important aspects of no dig gardening, including how to:
- Use no dig on different soil types
- Create and look after beds and paths
- Recognise and manage different types of weeds
- Understand and use a range of mulches, including comprehensive teachings on compost
- Grow an abundance of vegetables, demonstrated through detailed cropping plans
During lockdown, this article in House Beautiful gives other ideas for online courses.
In this course, you will discover the excellent and time-saving results of no dig, which I explain in this video.
It is based on my lifetime’s experience of developing successful methods – centred on no dig – and I demonstrate these throughout, with clear explanations.
It is about starting right and continuing easily, with less time needed.
As well as sharing my methods, I give you the understandings behind them. Then you can successfully adjust to different gardens, weather and life demands.
During the course, I show how no dig makes all aspects of gardening more simple and effective. I give many examples of cropping in different beds and areas, including a year’s crop plan for my “small garden”.
The basis of good and easy gardening is healthy soil, with few weeds. I show you the steps needed to achieve this, from clearing weeds without digging, to the routine of maintaining weed free beds and paths. I explain how fertility is as much or more about life than about nutrients, and how we can encourage soil organisms to work with us in a lively soil.
Some of my teachings are different to commonly held beliefs, and in all cases I explain why, and how my methods can save you so much time.
No dig is not complicated – just such a straightforward, easy way of enhancing soil drainage, moisture retention and root health. Evidence that you are on the right lines is given by the exuberant growth, as I show and explain throughout the course. You don’t need expensive apparatus or special kit, nor any fertilisers or feeds.
In summary, this course will:
- Save you time
- Give you great pleasure in gardening
- Improve your soil and garden ecology
- Result in wonderful food to eat
Such results are possible for any gardener, when they follow the no dig methods of caring for their soil and plants.
This page is about Course 1, No Dig Gardening.
Have a look at Course 2, Growing Success, for the skills needed to grow wonderful vegetables, created from my lifetime of experience. I give details of timings, planning, winter gardening, perennial vegetables, seeds and sowing, spacing, succession planting, and growing methods for more harvests in less space.
Both courses can be purchased as a voucher.
(For buyers in the US, the cost of each course is around $190, depending on current exchange rates.)
The course consists of 7 modules, broken down into 19 lessons. The lessons are illustrated with tables, diagrams and full colour, captioned photos of my gardens at Homeacres. All of the lessons contain instructional videos, the majority of which are exclusive to the course.
There is a multiple choice quiz at the end of each lesson, for enjoyment and to consolidate learning.
To recognise how much you’ve learnt from the course, you will receive an online certificate on passing the final quiz. This will show friends, family, employers and yourself what you’ve achieved.
Having lifetime access allows you to refer back to any part of the course, at any time.
There are no downloadable pdf’s or worksheets.
How the Course Works
You can work your way through the lessons at your own pace – there is no rush and I encourage you to take your time.
I have not set a time frame for each lesson as I notice how everyone learns at a different speed, and sometimes slow is good. There is a lot of information to absorb, information that empowers.
Below is a brief description of all the modules and lessons. You can dive into any lesson at any time, but I’d recommend working your way through from the beginning, and taking the quizzes as you go. However, it is up to you!
The quizzes can be completed in non-sequential order. Each one contains between 4 and 15 questions, and answers need to be 100% correct on all 19 quizzes in order to pass the course and receive your certificate. However, they are automatically graded, and easy to reset if an answer is wrong.
One thing I can’t offer is personal support, there are not enough hours in my day for it. You will find a lot of “me” in the course, answering the questions I am commonly asked, and you can contact me via this website.
Module 1 – Introducing no dig
The history of no dig – always successful – makes one wonder why it has not caught on before in a bigger way. I explain the benefits to soil and gardener.
Lesson 1 – The advantages and history of no dig
We start with an overview of the advantages of no dig, and why it’s such an effective method. To help you to understand more about it, I’ve put together a history of no dig practice. It will help you to give you more of an idea of where we are now, and reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun.
Lesson 2 – Simple, time saving, productive
An overview of the no dig method, and how it enables comprehensive weed clearance at the same time as successional plantings throughout the season. I explain the simplicity and the time saving benefits, while showing you the results.
Module 2 – Top results for less time needed
In this module, we explore the results of no dig on different soils, and also how it compares to growth in dug soil. We look at results from the side-by-side trials I run, including the dig/no dig comparison beds which I have cropped every year since 2007. I give you my perspectives on the results.
No dig has, until recently, been frowned on by traditional gardeners and institutions. However this is now changing. The process of change shows how it can be good to question accepted beliefs. I encourage you to develop your hunches in order to understand gardening more fully.
Lesson 3 – No dig on different soils, from stone to clay
Whether your soil is clay, stony or sandy, no dig is the best method for being time efficient, holding fertility and giving fine harvests. I show you my first market garden on stony limestone soil from 1982, then two market gardens on clay, before the silt of Homeacres. Plus we look at clay in Kent and sand in Florida.
Lesson 4 – Results of my Two Bed Trial
I add my interpretations to the sometimes dramatic differences you see. These beds reveal a lot about both dig and no dig, with comparisons that are always fascinating, including when differences are small.
Lesson 5 – Results of my Three Strip Trial
This wide-ranging trial compares growth when using different composts, and when soil is loosened by forking. In addition, there is a “no rotation” element, and you see the results of growing leeks and cabbage for four years consecutively in the same soil.
Lesson 6 – The jobs you don’t need to do
One of my favourite topics is gardening myths! They are so numerous, and so obvious when you analyse them, and it’s fun to realise how much time we can save. Understanding how they came about also helps us to understand more about how soil and plants are often explained, and how we can spot more mistakes.
Module 3 – Laying out beds and paths
I explain how you might set up a garden, including the benefits and importance of well-maintained paths. You see examples from different parts of Homeacres, and from my previous garden at Lower Farm.
Lesson 7 – Bed width and orientation, with sides or without
You can have beds of any width, and align them in whichever way works best for you in the context of your site. I explain the value of sides to beds in some situations, and the many reasons you may not want them.
Lesson 8 – Pathways to value, and extra harvests
How to clear paths of weeds and keep them weed free, and why this is worthwhile. I explain reasons for having paths of different widths, and how narrow paths without bed sides can increase your cropping.
Module 4 – Weeds
This is a huge topic and second only to soil, particularly if you have a weedy site when starting out. Appropriate mulching in year one leads you to experience the joy of weed free soil. Not 100% weed free for sure, but highly manageable, and I show you how.
- Identify your main weeds to know better how to mulch, what types of mulch to use, and how to stay weed free all the time.
- Learn the important differences between annual and perennial weeds.
Lesson 9 – Two types of weeds
It helps to name and understand each weed, so you have an idea of how to mulch or remove the mix you may find. In particular, I explain the characteristics and differences of annual and perennial weeds, and how their growth tendencies affect what you need to do in order to achieve clean soil for easy growing.
Lesson 10 – Going weed free with organic mulches
Eliminating perennial weeds is possible with no dig, and here is the how-to, using mulches of organic matter only. When digging out perennial weeds, there are always a few roots that regrow; with no dig, 100% elimination is possible.
Lesson 11 – Going weed free with non-organic mulches
Non-organic mulches – plastic of various kinds – do not look nice, but sometimes have a use in year one, mainly for reducing and eliminating perennial weeds. You can also reuse the same plastic, several times if needed.
I show how to use them in conjunction with organic matter, to improve soil at the same time as clearing weeds and growing a harvest.
Lesson 12 – Staying weed free
You always need to be aware of how weeds can recolonise soil, and react to them when seen, yet no dig takes all the pressure out of this. I explain how weeding can be enjoyable, because there is little of it to do. I share tips on how to stay weed free in this lovely scenario.
Module 5 – Fertility, compost and soil
These three words have a usage and meaning that varies with context. I give you the definitions that matter for no dig, simpler than often explained.
Soil and compost behave so differently. We look at composts you can buy or source for free, and how to make compost at home.
Lesson 13 – Make your own compost
Homemade compost has abundant life, and I show how to increase the microbes and organisms. Everybody’s heaps and additions are different; once you have a grasp of the principles, you can create a process that works in your space.
Lesson 14 – What is fertility?
Fertility is often equated to nutrients feeding plants, yet true and long-term fertility is about so much more than this. I explain how easy it is to grow great plants when you know surprisingly little about nutrient supply and uptake. Green fingers and a biological approach, rather than calculations and spreadsheets!
Lesson 15 – Comparing soil and compost: a trial
I had a fun comment on Instagram, a “professional horticulturist” who declared that soil and compost are the same thing! I show you how they are not, why they are not and how it helps your gardening when you understand the differences.
Lesson 16 – Types of compost and trial results
The one word “compost” covers so many products and possibilities. Enjoy the tour of different types in this lesson, and the results of growth comparisons from using four of them.
Module 6 – Cropping smaller spaces
How to create a bed with compost on weeds – you can plant it straightaway, then see how everything grows. I explain the cropping plans for this bed through a few seasons, and the harvests too.
I use my small garden of 25m² (269ft2) to show you how, in no dig, plantings can succeed each other through the course of one year. You will learn some vegetable choices and planting methods.
Lesson 17 – Making a bed and five years’ cropping
This is a story of one bed: how we made it in a morning then planted and sowed in the afternoon, and its subsequent growth over the following years. Year five shows possibilities for interplanting. Plus I have used the bed to trial unusual vegetables, so you have a peek at which may be worthwhile, and which may not be.
Lesson 18 – Two years’ cropping plans and harvests
The small garden is 25m2 ( 269ft2); I take you through the details of soil preparation (very little!), spring sowing, planting, edging and harvesting. Then you see the new plantings in summer, meaning that every part of the garden has grown two, or even three vegetables in one year.
Module 7 – A summary
Lesson 19 – a video of my talk, and the final quiz
To finish off the course, a one hour video summarises my approach to no dig, and all of its benefits.
The video also looks at aspects of growing, covered in Course 2, Growing Success.
Feedback from the No Dig Course
I have enjoyed every minute of the course, and looking forward to put in practice all the new knowledge about no dig.
Elke Rittenhouse, NY
I’ve enjoyed your first course and learned a lot. You helped me start my garden in New York. I have the beds ready. I’m composting, enjoying every minute of sourcing and feeding the bin. I’m not shy about rummaging through the pick offs from the vegetable aisle at my local grocery store. What I like about your course is that there is no recipe to follow, you offer different ways to start your bed, and I’ve learned to use what is accessible to me and to do what works in my area.
Beata Wypich, Poland
There was a lot of valuable and new information for me – your course is very good. For beginners in particular, but not only for them.
Clear instructions in simple words, and a few words of advanced knowledge here and there. All those films and charts! Informative and emotional at the same time! I think it is worth it’s price.
Jerilyn Ingram, Ireland
I studied the online course, and this was my first year following your methods. I can’t get over the amount of vegetables I have harvested and how healthy and vibrant everything is! Took me 50 years of gardening, but I finally got it right!
Donna Jones in Wales
I wasn’t sure about taking your course as I had learned so much from your YouTube channel, books, and a talk you gave at Llandeilo last year. I took it anyway, as I thought If nothing else it would consolidate what I had learned, and was also a way to give back as I appreciate the hard work that goes into all those videos and blog posts etc. However, I got a lot more from the course than anticipated and feel I have a really solid understanding of no dig now.
I am so glad I found your YouTube channel, and for the course. Without no dig I would have really struggled to manage the allotment on my own, given my busy work life, and would probably have given up. That would have been such a great shame as I get so much joy from being there.
I am really enjoying the online course and gaining a great deal from it.
I’m loving your course! Thanks so much for making this available online! I live in Florida and do no dig gardening on sand and really appreciate your suggestions.
Thank you for this wonderful course. It’s sad that it is already over… but I’m looking forward to the next one. It sounds great!
You approach of no dig gardening makes so much sense. Since I found you on youtube, I adapted it in my garden. My soil is so much nicer, crumbly and healthy, and so are the plants. It’s obviously that the soil is much more able to drain the rain and store the moisture. My earthworm population increased so much that when i want to walk around my garden on a rainy day I have to really watch my steps not to hurt or kill one. Their number and how big they are is just incredible!
Thank you so much to make gardening so much more fun and successful!!!
Luke Hardy, Leicester
Your course has literally set me up for life.
Amelia Vogel, New Mexico
I’m excited for Course 2. The first online course was brilliant, I learned a lot, and enjoyed it immensely.
Birgit Mair, Germany
I was really impressed with the amount of information, pictures and videos you share with us. Yes, I feel really well informed. Now, I know what I’m doing. But what really inspires me, is your love and respect for nature. And there are a few favourite sentences, that have forever found place in my heart: “be brave”, “have fun”, “there is nothing to lose” and “that’s not the end of the world”. Sounds easy, but sometimes I lose it. I will remember this in my life, not only in my garden!
I thank you so much and look forward to the next online-course.