The no dig garden method is becoming more popular amongst back yard gardeners
Advantages: Easier on the back to work at a higher level and no digging required
Disadvantages: Still requires more water than other methods discussed
Choosing a location and marking out a space
As with growing in the ground the no dig garden needs a location in your garden with the best access to sunlight. Mark out a space where you would like the garden bed to go. The advantage of a raised no dig garden is that it can be placed over any surface such as paving or concrete.
Making a raised bed
There are a number of materials that can be used to make a no dig garden bed from wooden sleepers and old timber to bricks or corrugated iron sheets. Whatever material is used, make sure that it is solid enough to hold a mass of soil and reinforce the edges as required, similar to how a retaining wall works. Some other material that does not require any additional work is old half wine barrels and old apple crates and boxes.
One of my raised no dig gardens – half wine barrel…
After you have selected the material, build an edge around the marked out space about 30-40cm high – the reason for this height is that most vegetables will grow well in this depth. You should end up with an enclosed space that is ready for the addition of the soil and organic matter. Now it’s just a matter of filling up this space with layers of compost, soil, straw and manure.
Preparing the soil
The key to the no dig garden method is working in layers, one at a time to build up the soil to a level that is deep enough for the roots of your vegetables.
- If the no dig garden is on bare ground, there is no real need to get rid of the surface weeds and grass from the space marked out. Just cover with some weed mat or a thick layer of wet newspaper and push the mat/newspaper about 5-10cm up the sides to prevent weeds from entering from underneath. If you have the no dig garden over concrete or paving, there is no need to add weed mat, but it is a good idea to add a layer of broken up dried branches about 5 -10cm deep to help aid in the drainage of the water. Also if you have a large container, just make sure that the water is able to drain out the bottom to avoid flooding and water logging the bed.
- The first layer should contain either straw or dead leaves. Lay this about 10 cm deep on the base of the garden bed.
- The next layer is your manure mixed with gardening soil mix (about 50/50). Lay this out about 5cm deep then water in well so the soil/straw and leaves settles.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you reach the height of the no dig garden edge. Note if you have a worm farm it will be a good idea to add a handful of worms for each layer.
If you plan to plant out seedlings cover the top surface with straw. Then just create a hole in the mulch for your seedling and cover back over around the plant. I can’t tell you how many times I have planted out a many seedlings and then went through the painful process of having to mulch around the plants taking care not to damage them or cover them over!
If you are planting seeds direct into the no dig garden then you will have to wait for the plants to get big enough before mulching with straw.
Contolling the pH in a no dig garden is the same process as mentioned in the “growing in the ground” section
You want to maintain a good depth/height in your no dig garden so keep adding organic matter in the form of manure, compost and straw as the garden will readily break down and drop in height over time.
This method is a little more complicated, so be aware that this will take more time and effort, but the no dig garden will return great results once set up properly.