Building a no-dig garden
Building a garden can be back-breaking work. With the no-dig garden, however, construction is quick, easy, and there is no digging required! You will need the following materials:
- Some sort of edging (I suggest something like bricks. paving or hardwood logs)
- Several bundles of newspaper
- Paving material (sawdust or bark chips work well)
- Blood & Bone
Decide where and what shape you want your garden bed to be. Always plan to have a bed that you can reach all sections of without standing on any part of it. Mark the bed out on the ground, as well as the paths around it.
Slash or mow any long grass on the area you want to cover from the area.
Soak bundles of newspaper in a large bin. It’s a good idea to collect as many as you can before you start your garden.
Open out newspaper and lay on marked area. You need to make sure you have at least 8 sheets of newspaper per lay (more if you can). Overlap each paper to ensure that all light is blocked to the grass beneath. Any light will allow the grass to grow through, and threaten your garden.
Edge the shape of the garden bed with whatever edging you have chosen. Bricks are quite good at defining the shape, as they are small and easily moved.
Now we place layers on top of the paper. It really doesn't matter what order they go in. Fill the garden bed with a layer of manure. Cow manure is preferable, along with some chicken if you have it. Horse manure is not ideal, as the gut of a horse does not kill the grass seeds that they have eaten, as a cow’s will. Try to cover at least 2 cm of cow manure over the bed.
Lay a good 10cm of lucern over the manure. Lucern is often called “pea straw” and is vital for introducing nitrogen to the soil, which your plants will thrive on.
Cover the lucern with a good layer of compost (about 20 - 30cm). You can make your own compost over time (see Composting instructions), wood chips and chicken manure, or you can buy it from your local landscape supplier.
Sprinkle the compost with any remaining manure you may have, as well as a bit of lime and some blood and bone (about a fist full of each per square meter).
Cover the compost as soon as you can (as you don’t want it to dry out) with either straw or more lucern (about 20-30cm). Lucern has become expensive in Australia due to the drought, and you can usually pick up straw for about half the price. Straw and lucern can be purchased by the bale at a produce store. For Sydneysiders, there is one behind Hills Flower Market at Mona Vale Road, Terry Hills.
Line your pathways with some form of paving material. Sawdust compacts very well and won’t break through your newspaper. Bark chips also work reasonably well. Landscape suppliers sell a great gravel-like substance which is made from re-cycled roof tiles and is a red-brick colour. Normal gravel works well too. If you choose a substance which isn’t soft, you might think about laying some sand down first to soften the edges against the newspaper. You don’t want your newspaper being punctured by a gravel, only to let that pesky grass peek through!
To plant your seedlings, make small holes in the straw, fill with some more compost, and plant your seedling into it. Do this after the sun is no longer on the bed, as the shock of transplant will be less.
Water your garden well, but remember Sydney's water restrictions! Hoses only before 10am and after 4pm on Wednesday and Sunday! You can water by watering-can at other times, however, and I suggest you do so daily for a week for your new seedlings, until they find their feet and get a little stronger.