Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Course

Charles Dowding produces veg all year round at his Lower Farm in Somerset, UK as well as running courses on gardening for all levels. When I saw this book in my local library, I was attracted by his method of minimal effort that results in abundant and healthy harvests.
This book advocates the ‘no-dig’ method, which, to be honest, I had never heard of before. I well recall the back-breaking work it took to convert sections of my lawn into vegetable beds by using the trench-digging method, so I am more than happy to hear of an alternative. Everybody I know who grows vegetables digs the soil deep and incorporates compost/manure into it, rather than laying it on top of the undisturbed earth as this gardener recommends. 
The advantages of this method are many including:
  •  new weed seeds are less likely to be brought to the surface where they might sprout 
  • less manual labour
  • the soil structure remains intact supporting growth
  • over time the soil becomes more nutrient rich and productive.
There is a good chapter on the basic tools you will need – no fancy gadgets or unnecessary expense here. He just recommends buying the essentials – the best you can afford. There are some useful chapters on accessories, weed identification, pests and diseases, tips on growing the most common vegetables, seed-saving, and a monthly gardening calendar.
Overall Charles is a minimalist gardener, minimal intervention, minimal unnecessary work and tools, which I like. This is a good book for the beginner gardener or someone who is still trying to find a system that works. 
He calls for a greater understanding of the natural processes at work: 
“A healthy and happy garden comes from a balanced approach: from tolerating some pests and diseases, while at the same time keeping their causes to a minimum.”
From the beautiful photographs in the book this method clearly works for him. I will definitely be putting a lot of his advice to use in my own garden.
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