yielding. So a combination of perennials and annuals is a good way to get an even supply
of vegetables all year round.
Permaculture gardeners always prefer to grow annual vegetables on a no-dig system if
possible. Growing vegetables without digging has been tried and tested over many years
by the members of the Henry Doubleday Research Association in their gardens all over the
British Isles. Results are similar to conventional growing, though they may be better in one
year and worse in another. The amount of work involved is far less, and any soil compac-
tion can be dealt with by simply loosening the soil with a fork without digging or turning it.
Potatoes can be grown without digging by covering the seed with a layer of straw or other
Annual self-seeders, which can reproduce themselves without our help, are ideal for the
no-dig garden. Common examples are spinach, chard and parsley, but native annuals which
are edible obviously come under this heading. Fat hen, for example, makes a good spinach,
and chickweed a good base for a salad.
It is important with no-dig gardening not to walk or stand on the soil where plants are
growing so as to avoid compaction. Most no-dig gardens are laid out on a raised bed sys-
tem, which has alternate beds and paths, with the topsoil of the paths removed and placed
on the beds. The beds are sufficiently narrow for every part of them to be reached from the
paths, so that no-one need ever step on a bed. This results in beds about 1.2 metres wide
and paths of about half a metre. It is a highly productive system, but almost a third of the
garden is taken up by paths.
This proportion can be improved by laying out the garden in keyhole beds ( see illustra-
tion below ). Little paths shaped like a keyhole branch off the main one, or radiate from a