Easy No Dig Vegetable Garden
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
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
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
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 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 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
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
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
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.
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
No Dig Vegetable Garden Soil
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
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.