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No dig garden

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

  1. Select a suitable location to construct a no-dig garden bed. Ideally it should be on a fairly level surface, and it should receive 5 hours or more of sunlight each day. You can build the no-dig garden over any surface, over existing soil, lawn, concrete or paved surfaces – the first step of the construction will vary depending on the surface. Either mark out where the no-dig garden bed will be, and build it without ‘sides ‘ or edging, or construct a raised bed

  2. Gather Materials

You will need the following materials:


  • Newspapers or cardboard

  • Animal manure or organic fertilizer

  • Straw bales or lucerne (alfalfa hay) bales or both

  • Compost

Optional materials:

  • Kitchen scraps, worm castings, rock dust

If building on hard or rocky ground, you’ll also need:

  • dry small sticks and branches, old dry leaves

  • dry seaweed (optional)

You will also need the following items:

  • If using cardboard – Bucket of water for soaking cardboard

  • Watering can or hose for watering

3) If building over an existing garden bed or soil, no additional preparation is required.

  • If building over concrete, paving, rocky ground or other hard surfaces, first lay down a layer of small sticks and branches, twigs and old dry leaves 7-10cm (3”-4”) thick. This layer helps with drainage so water doesn’t pool on the hard surface and create a waterlogged soil.You can also add dried seaweed (if you can get it) to this layer.

  • If building over lawn or grass, you can mow the grass very low first, or just leave it. Next, fertilize it with plenty of nitrogen-rich fertilizer (such as blood & bone or manure) and lime, then water it in. The fertilizer will help the grass rot down once it is covered up and buried under all the layers that will go on top of it.

4) Lay down sheets of newspaper in layers approximately 0.5cm thick (approx. 1/4” thick), and overlap the edges by 10-15cm to prevent grass or weeds growing through.

  1. Using a watering can or hose, water the newspaper well.

This newspaper layer will hold moisture and act as a weed barrier. It will gradually break down over time. If using cardboard, you will need to pre-soak it in a bucket of water first, which is not as easy. The other issue with cardboard is that it contains glue made of borax, so it’s really a second choice. Use newspapers if they are available, and more importantly, do not use glossy printed paper or office paper, they contain toxic inks and bleaches, something you don’t want going into your food! 5) Sprinkle a thin layer of manure. You can also add compost to create a layer 5cm (2”) thick. Also worm casings , kitchen scraps etc Using a watering can or hose, water in well. 6) Lay down a layer of straw approximately 10cm (4”) thick over the layer of manure or manure/compost. Using a watering can or hose, water in well. You can use any carbon-containing material here such as peas straw, hay, sugar cane mulch, etc. 7) Sprinkle a thin layer of manure. You can also add compost to create a layer 5cm (2”) thick and top with more straw and water well. 8) Make holes in the top layer of straw approximately 10-15cm (4-6”) wide, and equally deep.

  1. Fill with compost.

  2. Plant seeds, seedlings or plants.

  3. Using a watering can or hose, water in well.

You can also add seaweed extract to the water when you water in the seeds/seedlings or plants , they will love it .

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