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New “no dig” beds at Willowhill

by Eric Wright and Sally Lorimore, Garden Owners at Willowhill Garden in Fife 

Willowhill is open through the season - follow the garden’s progress buy buying a season ticket for £20 which admits one person plus guest on selected dates from April to August. Great value and supports charity, with 50% going to Scotland’s Gardens Scheme and 50% to the Rio Community Centre in Fife.

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We are creating another planting area in 2023 using the no dig method. There is much evidence that both vegetables and flower borders can benefit from this style of gardening: soil degradation, erosion and loss of soil carbon is reduced and invertebrate diversity, water retention and soil fertility is increased. 

willowhill-garden-no-dig-border.jpg ©

In 2019/2020 we trialled the no-dig approach on a grassy area of the field. We planted the area with the smallest amounts of plant material possible to minimise soil disturbance and reduce stress on establishing plants. Some new plants were purchased but we propagated most from garden divisions or from seed. We heavily mulched with three inches of composted bark to reduce weeding and conserve water. 

We were impressed by the results; the next year the plants grew well and the limited soil disturbance/ deep mulching has produced little weeding over 3 growing seasons. We top up the mulch every 2-3 years and regularly check for and remove weed seedlings that appear occasionally. 

Our most extraordinary finding was that this flower border held on to moisture much better than our other conventionally dug/mulched borders; in the hot, dry summer of 2022 this border didn’t require watering at all!  We have learnt this approach is a real game-changer; as well as being more wildlife/soil friendly it is far less labour intensive for us as gardeners! 

For our new project in 2022/2023 we are extending plantings using the ‘no dig’ approach adjacent to an existing conventionally dug border. A stone potting shed built with field stone and other recycled sandstone as well as other structural elements- gravel paths edged with recycled whinstone, hedging and an existing wall are integral to the overall design. 

We have completed winter plantings- beech hedging, trees and roses and some bare rooted perennials with mulching around as well as half the whinstone path edging and will complete the remaining work late April/early May. 

Willowhill no dig.jpg

Thinking of developing something along these lines or just interested in the process? The garden opens mid-April in all its spring glory with euphorbia, primula, pulmonaria, hellebores and early spring bulbs against fresh new season’s growth. Come and see the new border being developed too and watch the transformation of this area over the course of spring and summer. We will be on hand to answer any questions. 

Willowhill Garden opens for Scotland’s Garden Scheme by arrangement from 10th April and from 1-5pm on selected days through the season. Click on the button below for full details.

Willowhill Garden Open Days