No Dig gardens – anywhere and everywhere
Anywhere and everywhere – that’s the motto of a no-dig garden. Do you have rocky, clay or sandy soil unsuitable for a veggie garden? Build a no-dig garden on top of it and feed your family delicious home-grown veggies. Want to make a garden on your back lawn? Don’t bother with the effort of digging it up – instead, build a no-dig garden.
No-dig gardens became well-known in Australia after Esther Deans published her book Growing without Digging in 1977. No-dig gardening is simply a way of establishing a garden in any place you need it – even on top of concrete. Deans discovered it when she wanted to create a veggie garden in her backyard that was full of clay and buried building materials, making a traditional garden impossible.
The method involves alternating layers of newspaper, straw (or leaf matter) with manure and compost on top of your surface, creating a mix that will decompose down into a garden perfectly suited to planting veggies. First, build a boundary for your no-dig garden to ensure it doesn’t wash away. This could be a home-made frame, or a few sandstone blocks, or a commercially constructed garden bed.
Now, gather your materials and soak your newspaper. Spread a layer of two or three leaves of newspaper at once across your surface, making sure the edges overlap generously so as to stop weeds getting through (if you’re building on concrete, put a 10cm layer of dry sticks down first). Next, soak your straw or dried leaf matter and add a layer of it to the newspaper. Make it about 10cm thick. Sprinkle some manure and compost evenly across the area, about 5cm thick. Alternate these two layers to double the desired eventual height as your no-dig garden will compact down to half of its size. The last layer should be the soaked straw or leaf matter.
It’s hard not to want to plant veggies in your garden straight away, and you can – pop a bit of well-decomposed compost into pockets made in your last layer. Plant your seedlings (leave straight seed-sowing until later), and then sit back and watch your veggies thrive while your garden gradually settles into place.
Soon your no-dig garden will shrink down to the intended height and your veggies will be heading towards harvest. We won’t blame you if you start to search for other ‘impossible’ areas to create gardens – no-dig gardens help you create life out of the barest of plots – and it’s totally addictive!