After three years of no-dig, I have acquired a core inventory of tools etc for the gardening year. The list is quite small:
1) Polystyrene module trays – these are far more solid than the plastic ones sold in garden centres (which tend to warp and tear after a couple of years) – they have gone out of fashion but I found some on eBay. A dozen 48 module trays is more than sufficient for 50sqm of garden.
2) 1m * 30cm plastic trays to stand module trays, polypot bags etc on. These are essential if you start germinating seeds indoors to prevent damage to carpets etc. I purchased four for £20 at a local garden centre.
3) A small lean-to for keeping young seedlings protected from wind and cold in the spring. I have found that a four level 1m * 30cm lean-to is sufficient. The plastic exterior starts to degrade after about five years, but may be replacable. New lean-tos cost £30-100 depending on make, size etc.
4) Copper tools: I have five core tools which I use regularly (all bought from implementations.co.uk):
i) A Hydra Hoe – ideal for preparing spring tilth, removing spring weeds and smoothing ground after harvesting a crop.
ii) A Perseus rake – used after hoeing to produce a flat surface tilth.
iii) A Trowel – used to dig holes for no-dig potato planting, holes for planting larger modules (beans and brassicas) as well as harvesting smaller crops.
iv) A Nunki weeder – my most valued tool used throughout the summer to aerate surface soil and kill small weeds in between rows of vegetables.
v) Dibber – this is probably a luxury as a wooden one will work perfectly well.
The two additions I might make would be a Pollux hoe and a spade for edging and harvesting parsnips.
The total cost of all, including additions would be £500-600. Quite a cost, but they will last a lifetime.
5) A wormery. This is useful for generating high quality vermicompost and costs £60-70. For those being serious, three wormeries working on a three year cycle may be the ideal.
6) Water butts -useful for collecting rainwater in winter to use on seedling trays in spring and whenever droughts occur. 200 gallons is a useful volume to have available. The water can be harvested from the house roof, from a garden shed’s sloping roof etc.
7) A two tub set up for generating concentrated comfrey extract: the lower tub has no holes, the upper tub slots into the lower tub and has holes in the side of its base to allow extract to drain into the lower tub. The upper tub is filled with harvested comfrey, this is weighed down using e.g. a 20kg sack of rock dust, the set up is enclosed using aluminium foil to prevent evaporation and left to produce the liquid for 4-8 weeks.
8) Rock dust, friendly bacteria and friendly fungi. Rock dust contains essential trace elements and can be added to compost piles when they are made. Friendly bacteria and friendly fungi can be added to seed compost mixes when sowing seeds – these cause better and stronger root systems to develop.
9) Comfrey Plants – a dozen Bocking 14 plants will be worth their weight in gold.
10) Polypot bags – certain crops grow very well in 17 litre black bags ( can be purchased from Medwyns of Anglesey). Carrots, garlic, parsnip all do well.
11) 30 gsm fleece to protect young seedlings in March, April and May. 25m * 2m is sufficient for my 50sqm garden, costing under £30.
12) Compost bins – 4 daleks and two wire cages is sufficient for me, with a builders bag of 1 cubic metre for storing ripe compost until use. Alternatively, a triple wooden bin with lids might suit others.
Overall, an investment of around £2000 will supply essential tools etc for your no-dig garden.