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Easy No Dig Vegetable Garden

Updated on September 14, 2014

Easy steps to a no-dig garden

In 2010 I made my first no dig garden the easy way. The construction was easy and the harvest, only 10 weeks later, is phenomenal! I have documented both the construction and the growth of our no dig garden with photos so you can see just how easy and productive it is.

Don't miss the experiment at the end of this page where the best "soil" for the garden beds was determined.

How To Build a No Dig Garden

No Dig Garden Step #1 - Prepare the Area

Preparing for a no dig garden
Preparing for a no dig garden | Source

If your no dig garden is going over the top of grass or other weeds, it is a good idea to mow the area first to get rid of any big woody weeds and excess growth. You could also use animals, such as chickens or guinea pigs, to do this work for you.

Alternatively, you could kill the weeds by placing black plastic temporarily over the area for several weeks.

No Dig Garden Step #2 - Soak Your Newspaper

no dig gardening step 1
no dig gardening step 1

Start by soaking your newspaper. A convenient place to do this is in your wheelbarrow. If you don't have a big enough container, you can always wait until you have layered the newspaper on the ground and thoroughly soak with a hose. Best to do this on a day that's not too windy though so you don't have newspaper blowing all around your yard.

No Dig Garden Step #3 - Water the ground

No Dig Garden Step #3
No Dig Garden Step #3

By watering the ground, you will encourage the micro-organisms and worms to come to the surface. If you are placing your no-dig garden over grass or other weeds, watering will encourage growth. But after the newspapers are put on top, the weeds won't get any light and so they will die quicker because all the energy has just been put into growing new leaves.

No Dig Garden Step #4 - Layer Your Newspaper

Lay newspaper in no dig garden
Lay newspaper in no dig garden

Lay your wet newspaper over the garden bed area, completely covering the ground, making sure the pages overlap by at least 2-4 inches (5-10cm). Make sure that you extend the sheets to go under the garden bed walls so that weeds will not be able to grow up in the gaps. The picture above shows this step half completed.

If you are building your no-dig garden on top of existing gardens with good tilth, you newspaper layer need only be about one or two sheets thick. If you are building over lawn you will need your newspaper layer to be about 6 sheets thick. If you are placing your garden beds over particularly horrific weeds, you could use cardboard from flattened boxes. Make sure you remove all tape first. You could alternatively use old carpet but make sure that it's all natural, including the backing since this disintegrates. Also be careful when using carpet since much carpet has been treated to make it fire retardant and insect repellent and so therefore won't be organic.

No Dig Garden Step #5 - Build Your Garden Walls

Build no dig garden walls
Build no dig garden walls

Build your garden walls out of you chosen materials on top of the wet newspaper. We used railways sleepers here. For more ideas on what to use to make the walls, visit Raised Bed Gardens.

No Dig Garden Step #6 - Fill With Animal Manure

Fill garden with manure
Fill garden with manure

We are blessed to live near some racehorse stables which get cleaned out every day and the bags of horse manure are placed out on the path to be collected for free. You can use manure from other animals instead or as well, but some, for example chook or pig manure, are very hot and would burn your young plants. It is best to compost these with added grass clippings first. Fill your garden bed almost to the top with this well-composted manure, along with any compost you have, and spread out with a rake or garden fork.

No Dig Garden Step #7 - Add Layer of Mulch

Now add a thick layer of mulch on top, such as straw or sugarcane mulch, and water well.

No Dig Garden Step #8 - Plant Vegetable Seedlings

Plant vegetable seedlings
Plant vegetable seedlings

Now the really fun part – planting your seedlings. Push aside the mulch and make a hand-sized hole in the manure. Fill this hole with potting mix or fine compost. Then plant your seedling into this. Pull the mulch back around the seedling. It is best to plant seedlings in this new bed but you could use instead plant some of the bigger seeds (such as peas or broad beans) straight in place.

The Completed No-Dig Garden

completed no-dig vegetable garden
completed no-dig vegetable garden

Our no-dig vegetable garden was built at the end of March, which for us in Australia, is Autumn / Fall. The vegetables we planted were cauliflower, celery, beetroot, parsley and rainbow chard.

The Results

Our No Dig Vegetable Garden Through Time - Up to our first harvest at 10 weeks. Click thumbnails to see bigger pictures.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
3 weeks old5 weeks old7 weeks old8 weeks old10 weeks old - Swiss chard harvest10 weeks old - beetroot harvest
3 weeks old
3 weeks old
5 weeks old
5 weeks old
7 weeks old
7 weeks old
8 weeks old
8 weeks old
10 weeks old - Swiss chard harvest
10 weeks old - Swiss chard harvest
10 weeks old - beetroot harvest
10 weeks old - beetroot harvest

An Experiment

No Dig Vegetable Garden Soil

No dig garden soil experiment
No dig garden soil experiment

This garden bed was created about 10 weeks ago. As an experiment, the left half of the bed contains horse manure, mushroom compost and lucerne. The right half of the garden bed was filled with soil and a commercial organic fertiliser. Seedlings of the same size were planted in both halves of the garden bed on the same day. At first, the section on the right seemed to be growing better. But it wasn't long before the section on the left started to really flourish.

Insect Damage in the Experimental Garden

No dig garden experiment - pests
No dig garden experiment - pests

Manure + compost

Soil + commecial fertilizer

It's interesting to see how the veggies grown in the manure plus compost half were healthier and therefore able to ward off insect attack better than the veggies grown in the soil with commercial fertilizer.

Share your no-dig gardening experience with us.

Have You Ever Tried No-Dig Gardening?

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    • profile image

      Wendy 2 months ago

      I've been using this method for 5 years now and it produces great results with less watering and minimal weeds. I plant many seeds by pushing mulch aside in spring. Add a little fine potting soil on top and plant seed. When seedlings are about 5 inches tall I return the straw mulch. I prepare my 10 beds in fall by adding a little more compost to each and cover with straw.

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 4 years ago from Virginia

      Great ideas!! Your lens was featured on our G+ page today!

    • BowWowBear profile image

      BowWowBear 4 years ago

      Looks like a great way to garden! Thanks for showing the progressive photos. Gives me some ideas for my own garden!

    • profile image

      laurenrich 5 years ago

      I have never tried no-dig gardening, but I find it very interesting. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • casquid profile image

      casquid 5 years ago

      To answer your question,"No, I haven't tried No-Dig, yet." After saying this, I may try this with my raised bed in the Spring. Success with the garden last year has encouraged me to go forward in 2013. However, this year I will limit my herbs to pots and use the square-foot (raised beds) for greens, lettuce, swiss chard and onions. My tomatoes are in a topsy-turvy on my porch. Thanks for all the wisdom you have saturated me with today.

      I believe you deserve LOTD, it is still good to see this on the Homepage.

      Angel Blessings!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Brilliant lens, I love the garden.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Back to admire this great lens, get ideas for my own garden and google plus it.

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 5 years ago from Australia

      @favored: No soil at all. But gardens beds which I have made since have had some soil. The soil bulks out the growing medium. Manure and compost do tend to reduce in size. I usually use sugarcane mulch (purchased) but you could use dried grass clippings. I do let the manure sit for a while before before planting into it - usually at least a couple of months for horse manure. Chook manure would require longer as it is hotter.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      The photos tell it all. So the left side had no dirt at all? What exactly do you use as mulch? I thought if you don't let the manure set a season it would burn up the crop. How long did you have to wait before planting?

    • CoeGurl profile image

      CoeGurl 5 years ago from USA

      This is fantastic information - thanks! It is VERY interesting that the manure + compost makes for healthier plants that can withstand bugs.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The photos of your manure+compost / soil+commercial fertilizer really tell the tale about which is best. Great job on this lens!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      I haven't tried this yet - but I am definitely interested. Hoeing is so hard on the back and building up the soil is not easy. I thought your instructions were easy to understand - awesome pictures, I think I know just what to do. Angel Blessed and sent out to Pinterest under How does your Garden Grow. Great Job!

    • profile image

      JimDickens 6 years ago

      Not yet but we are planning something much like this in 2012

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 6 years ago from New Jersey

      This is awesome! I have just been starting my seedlings for the year and realized I need to expand my garden plot extensively. This sounds so much easier than digging up areas. Bookmarking this so I don't lose track of this page!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i will definitely try this!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I have done the Lasagna Gardening method for some of my herb plants for the past few years. I love it! Great article! I always learn so much when I visit your articles. :)

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 6 years ago

      A great lens design. Easy to read! And thanks for sharing your experience.

    • RaisedVegetableG profile image

      RaisedVegetableG 6 years ago

      @GonnaFly: Done, (it took me a while to remember how to). I think its useful for readers to have links to similar lenses

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 6 years ago from Australia

      @RaisedVegetableG: Not at all. Feel free to link to this page :-)

    • RaisedVegetableG profile image

      RaisedVegetableG 6 years ago

      I only use no-dig gardening, I am delighted with your experiment on soil. The comparison in insect damage is so convincing. Do you mind if I link to your lens from mine?

    • profile image

      jeffn516 6 years ago

      Very cool. Love the step-by-step instructions. Seems like a great family activity

    • hysongdesigns profile image

      hysongdesigns 6 years ago

      This method does not really work here in the desert. If you don't dig and loosen up the soil then all the water just runs off and not only will you have a huge water bill, the plants are stunted because they aren't getting enough water and don't have enough soil to grow in. I LOVE! the experiment; just goes to show you that nature is the best and chemical factories CANNOT improve on her!

    • DianaHarper LM profile image

      DianaHarper LM 6 years ago

      I thoroughly enjoyed this lens - from directions to experiment! I had a circular no-dig garden in my front yard. It was mainly an herb garden - sage, oregano, lavendar and mint. Liked. Shared on Facebok. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      We have a vegie garden similar to yours, but have had to take ours one step further, as we have Kangaroos, Rabbits & Cockie & parrots, who used to wait till veg was just ready to pick and the would strike and clear the lot, so we have had to not only fence our garden but put up poles, high enough for us to walk in comfortable then put net over the whole lot, which works well for us, our tomatoes did so well last year they grew threw the net !!!

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      Now THAT is cool!!! I WANT ONE!!!!

    • ashroc profile image

      ashroc 6 years ago

      Such a great lens, i love the step by step description with photos. Such an interesting result comparing the soil with commercial fertilizer vs compost and manure

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 6 years ago

      Another great lens. I am combining all the ideas and gardening this year in a square foot garden. I got a load of mushroom dirt to fill my container, hopefully it will work as well as yours!

    • RetroMom profile image

      RetroMom 6 years ago

      Amazing. I am stunned. I have tried planting plants over grass and have lost the battle before, using very much the technique you have used here. Some Steps you did are a little different than I did, I think I might try it again.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 7 years ago

      Such a helpful lens, with step by step instructions and good photos. I think more and more people will begin to garden as it's healthier and much more economical.

    • Tyla MacAllister profile image

      Tyla MacAllister 7 years ago

      I have used a similar method for growing vegetables with great success. Unfortunately,I have to grow most of my veggies in containers on my porch now because my yard is heavily wooded.

      *Blessed by a SquidAngel.*

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 7 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I have tried no-dig gardening, only without the great raised bed you did. I love this lens, and hope to use it to help me next Spring. Thanks!

    • triathlontraini1 profile image

      triathlontraini1 7 years ago

      I've never tried it. Unless you count the pots on my deck. Very nice job and thank you for sharing. I've lensrolled it to my Rainwater Harvesting lens. :)

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

      Love this lens. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust and also on the awards lens charity-lenses-for-summer-sunshine-giveaway

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 7 years ago

      This looks amazing!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Wow, this is an excellent lens with great illustrated instructions on how to create an Easy No Dig Vegetable Garden. I enjoyed reading about your experiment with the soil and found that very interesting. This lens is featured on Squidoo's Summer Sunshine Award Nominees with your charity, Grameen Foundation, and nominated. Good Luck on the contest.