Morag's Simple & Successful No-Dig Garden Method

Low maintenance, low water needs, abundant, resilient. We all want to be able describe our vegetable garden efforts this way. However, the joy of growing fresh chemical-free food at home is regularly thwarted by our time- poor lives and often poor soils. 

Over the past 20 years, I've developed a method of no-dig gardening that has proved again and again to be simple, affordable, time-saving, soil-replenishing and the maker of super-productive garden beds. 


My No-Dig Garden Method is Different.

I make my no-dig gardens differently from the methods described in most gardening books - just a little twist, but it turns it on it’s head. 

Simply, the newspaper is the last layer before the mulch, rather than laid on the ground under the compost layer.  This little change does many things. 
If you'd like to give it a try, here's my step by step guide:

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

Step 1: LOCATE YOUR GARDEN 
Identify a good site for your garden and gather the resources.

Step 2: OPEN AND FEED THE SOIL
Opening the soil.


Step 3: MAKE NEW TOPSOIL LAYER 

Adding organic matter, compost, manure, liquid fertiliser, comfrey leaves... materials for the new topsoil. Note the little keyhole pathways that are designed to collect water and direct it into the garden.

Water this all in well before adding the newspaper layer.

Step 4: ADD A WEED BARRIER
Adding wet newspaper, making sure to overlap it well. It is a good idea to lay it so that water is directed under the paper (e.g.: the opposite of roof tiles which shed water).

Tuck it into the sides well to prevent weeds coming through here. Paper the pathways too.

Step 5: MULCH MULCH MULCH! 
Completely cover with a thick layer of seed-free mulch so that you cannot see any paper showing through.

Step 6: PLANTING AND WATERING
Make little holes in the mulch and paper (like a nest). Plant through the paper into the new soil layer below - adding a good handful of compost to bed the seedling in.

TIPS FOR MAINTAINING YOUR NO-DIG GARDEN 

  1. Water only when necessary. Feel under the mulch first. Overwatering causes shallow root growth and seeds from overwatered plants expect lots of water. 
  2. Mix herbs and flowers amongst the vegetables to assist with pest management. 
  3. Pull out emergent weeds before they seed or spread. 
  4. Prepare more compost, while the garden is growing 
  5. When a plant is removed, add a handful of compost in it’s hole and replace with a different plant - no need to redo the whole area. 
  6. Next growing season, observe and use your judgment. Maybe top up with a new layer of compost and mulch. Perhaps fork the soil a little more. Add another layer of newspaper only when needed. 
  7. Allow the perennials to remain - just mulch around them. 

HEALTHY SOIL = HEALTHY PLANTS = HEALTHY FOOD AND PEOPLE 

My garden method is simple, easy, cheap and very rewarding. I hope you give it a try. Evolve it to your conditions and resource availability. Share it with others. It’s a fun activity to do with friends or family, community garden or school. 

This post has been adapted and extended from an article published in the Maleny Organic Food Cooperative News, Spring 2015.

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