Let’s start with the obvious: no dig beds still need constant weeding. The interesting question is this; how greatly do the different methods of preparation affect the need to weed? Surely removing a huge bindweed root such as the one pictured will reduce the amount of bindweed afterwards.
We can put weeds into three classes according to their source:
- Weed from incoming seed. These are windblown and others that have fallen on our soil. Dropped by birds in their eagerness to deposit their nutrient? Fallen from grasses or trees that overhang our plot? Dropped from our own previous crop? (Tomatoes will do this.)
- Weed from latent seed. A significant difference between this and the previous category is that it should reduce over time. If you have just dug out a bramble bed, there will be seeds in the soil. The seedlings they produce will be no different from those produced from the offerings of overflying starlings, but their numbers should decrease over time.
- Weed from perennial roots. This is the area I want to concentrate on, because this is the factor most affected by the way we prepare our ground. If I can show that digging out roots before mulching (for example) leads to less recurrence of a particular weed, the question then becomes: Does the benefit justify the effort?
I think this will vary from weed to weed. So – and this is based on non-statistical experience alone – I believe digging out roots will prove to be the better way where heavy bindweed is found, but cutting the surface growth will prove better for bramble and ivy. We’ll see.
What I plan is to keep records of the extent to which I find each type of perennial weed growing in each subplot from year to year. This will give some insight into which method of preparing the ground is more effective at overcoming a particular type of weed.
This can’t be considered scientific because I will make no attempt to standardise the starting condition of each bed. I will record the state of each as I prepare it – which weeds are abundant, how I treated the land, any other relevant factors. But I know already that some areas are thick with bindweed, some a bramble patch, etc.
Nevertheless I hope to learn something from the process. Time will tell.