Monday, 8 February 2016

Barefoot gardening on a Sunday afternoon: Replenishing a No-Dig Garden after 12 months

The no-dig garden for my salad greens and herbs needed replenishing. It's been about 12 months since it was last done and today was a perfect day for this job. It's been raining for almost a week and the soil is so soft now. Luckily I forked the ground a while back and top dressed with mulch - this has helped to collect a lot more water into the garden area - meaning I didn't actually need to water as we made this bed today.

Not that long ago this area was a building site - compacted and dry from having the weight of so much timber and materials for the house laid there, as well as bobcats and diggers wheeling over it creating the cut for the house and trenching for services.  Amazingly the garden has done well, but it does need a few goes at the no-dig layers before the soil life really comes alive.

Considering what we started with, the soil is looking great now - it is incredibly different to just 12 months ago. There were so many worms too!  I've used this method in restoring some really degraded soils in many kitchen, school and community gardens with great results. Here's link to a previous blog post with full details on how I create no-dig gardens.

With this new addition of compost, mulch and love my refreshed salad, cutting greens and herb garden will flourish! Lots more healthy fresh salad greens coming in just a couple of weeks.

It was a perfect overcast afternoon after a week of rain to get in and do some gardening. I needed to redo this area of my garden. It is my main area for salads, herbs and greens. 

In preparing it for more compost and mulch, I removed a couple of creeping weeds, collected lots of seeds (amaranth, cosmos, marigold), took many herb cuttings and checked on the soil health.
A little forking to ensure the soil was nice and open. It is amazingly soft soil after the recent rains. I had to be careful with those tines - there were so many big worms in there.

I top-dressed the garden with compost made just uphill from the garden area (easy to wheelbarrow down).  I reshaped the keyhole paths to ensure they would be good rainwater collectors.  My aim is to have little paths and lots of garden. These narrow little paths are close enough so I can reach into the garden areas without stepping on the soil. My wider paths for the wheelbarrow are along contour helping also to collect and redirect water to the beds.
Lucas, a WWOOFer (work-exchange volunteer) from Sweden, is helping to add the newspaper layer as a weed barrier. He took an online PDC & is now in Australia to see it in practice and to learn how to set up abundant perennial food systems.

The newspaper layer here will stop most weeds coming up in this garden. Note that we started at the upper end of the slope so that as future rain falls on this garden, it will be directed under the paper layers into the soil, rather than being shed by tiles of paper.
Paper layers are typically 10 sheets thick, soaked in water and overlapped about 10 cms in each direction. We paper up around perennials and herbs staying in the garden area. We paper the pathways too.
Finishing up the garden after dinner - adding the final layer of mulch (our only purchased ingredient). Great to have everyone out helping!
The thick layer of mulch being settled in with a spraying of water by Hugh. Ready for planting tomorrow!

4 comments:

  1. There is a very compacted area in my lawn where a tired trampoline used to sit. There a slight circular depression too where this is lower than the surrounding soil. I think I might try to make it into a garden bed using your no-dig method. There is an issue with water given it's towards the top of our sloping backyard but it's position, so I'll have to factor that in too. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  2. Good luck with the garden! Post some photos when you've made it. I'd love to see.

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  3. What an interesting post on how to bring soil back to life. I'm always very happy when I see nice worms in my allotment. I feel as if I'm doing something right.
    Is that a pocket on your skirt? Looks like it's something I could copy when I'm gardening, never enough pockets.

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