creating a no dig garden

Creating a no dig garden bed in Tasmania

Creating a no dig garden bed in Tasmania.

Over the years I have created many garden beds, mostly via a rotary hoe. Over the past 4 years I moved away from the use of a rotary hoe to creating a no dig garden bed. There are a few advantages I have found to this newer approach.

1 – Much less weed work

2 – better soil

I am situated on Permian mudstone. When the soil dries out it is like concrete and this is particularly annoying when trying to manage weeds with a hoe. I used to spend ages weeding grasses and especially sheep sorrel and the fun of gardening dissipated. With the no-dig method, a layer of cardboard is laid down (or two layers) and a 6 inch layer of compost is added on top. Edging helps keep everything bedded in.

The cardboard prevents weeds coming thru (maybe a dock might make it) and brings worms to the surface as I have noticed they love the layer of cardboard. It is useful to overlap the cardboard on the edges to minimise grass coming in on the edge. Going forward, I find brushcutting the edges helps minimise grass coming in.

Hoeing the soil disturbs the seed bank of weeds. This stimulates weeds to germinate. This no dig method may not be as practical on a larger scale but I have seen many use it around the world. Check out Charles Dowding and Dutch Farmer Moreno on youtube who are market gardeners. It is also a great way to recycle cardboard and improve the biological life of your soil.

Bringing in some decent organic compost means I don’t have to work as much with my garbage soils. Over the years, the mudstone underneath improves as the worms and beneficial microbes work their wonder. I also add a layer of home made compost before adding the final layer of purchased compost. My homemade compost is full of lettuce, parsley and coriander seed. Happy for some to come up!

In late autumn or later wintereach uear I add a smaller layer of compost to the top layer as it will shrink as it settles. You can add any other inputs you feel is necessary during the growing season such as COF (Complete Organic Fertiliser), Dynamic Lifter, manures etc.

The new garden bed is approx. 3m by 3m and took 90 minutes to create. And it can be planted into straight away if time is of the essence. The bed at the back was pink eye potatoes last spring/summer and Broccoli and Cabbage through winter. The new beds will be pink eyes or similar again and onions and some tomatoes will go in after the brassicas.

This bed has taken ¾ of a metre of compost from the South Hobart Tip. I ran out so need to add a bit more so will likely be 1 metre in the end.

Is it easier to prepare than using a rotary hoe? Probably not as you still need to move in the compost. But you save in time weeding and if rubbish soils are what you are working with, then give this a go. And also means less mowing!

Photos below show the bed in creation. 

Cheers Dave

Update: The below picture shows this bed at 9 October 2021. Pink Eyes are enjoying the modest temperatures with no extreme heat. However it has been very wet and the onions are growing but could do with more sunshine and more high teen Celcsius days. Kipfler potatoes just put in before photo taken. Pink Eyes covered with some compost. (Photo is the last one below). I did not end up putting narrow paths in. I have a plank of wood that I place to step on.

Update 9/4/2022:

The below is approx what has been harvested from this bed since it was created at the beginning of the growing season:

  • 30 kg pink eyes spuds
  • 16 kg of kipler spuds
  • 40 kg brown onions
  • 17 kg red onions
  • 12 kg of lettuce
  • 36 cherokee purple tomateoes at approx 250g each 9kg
  • 15 kg Tommy Toe cherry tomatoes

Currently growing for autumn/winter harvest

  • 4 broccoli belstar f1
  • 3 broccoli amadeus f1
  • 3 broccoli marathon f1
  • 4 Cabbage Candy Red
  • 4 Brussels Sprouts (Divino F1 and Dagan F1)
  • 3 Cabbage Savoy King F1
  • 3 Cauliflower Snow Crown F1
  • 3 Cauliflower Cloud F1
  • approx 80 Beetroot Red Ace F1
  • Copious flowers of Cosmos Sensation Mix
  • extension of bed will host garlic (see below photos)
no dig garden
Setting up the edging.
no dig garden
I save cardboard boxes in a shed over time. Most large shops have cardboard in the recycle bins out back, so getting enough cardboard it quicte easy. Just pull the plastic tape off them.
creating a no dig garden
And it is basically down once the compost is down. About 6 inches deep. More will be added over the next few months along with some organic manures.
The no dig bed as at 9 October 2021.
The no dig bed as at 9 October 2021.
The no dig bed as at 27 October 2021.
no dig bed nov21
The no dig bed as at 16 November 2021 after a wet and snowy couple of days.

In order to provide further space for extra garlic seed I plan to put in mid to late April, I decided to expand this bed which will allow me to rest a couple of other beds over winter.

Below shows how easy it easy to expand. Simply unscrew the end piece of wood, cut some short pieces to attach the side extensions, then rescrew the end piece back on. Add cardboard and compost and done.

no dig bed 1
Border extension
Cardboard down
And compost on top. Now all i will do is water, add some rock dust, lime and some home compost as a top layer.

8 thoughts on “Creating a no dig garden bed in Tasmania”

  1. Alistair Primrose

    Loads of manure or people are using this no dig method now! Nothing new.
    Check out also Josh Sattin and JS Fortier, Colin Crickmore, Richard Perkins, Me, Daniel Mays, Jesse Frost has a new book out,, Joel Salatin.
    You only need cardboard if it’s a new bed over weeds. You can easily convert your normal garden beds. Charles has good books continuing his research.

    1. Certainly nothing new. I know Charles Dowding has been doing it since the late 70’s!! Not rocket science either is it. Our soils are poor generally than our European counterparts so extra amendments are required at times but I certainly appreciate much less weeding!!

    1. It is from Mitre 10. Can’t recall the exact dimensions but I used it for building the polytunnels. Think it is Rough sawn pine 150x30mm

  2. We have just constructed a netting tunnel about23 x 3.7 m We have covered it with recycled cardboard and this extends30 cm outside the perimeter. Do you think we need wooden edging.Next to get the compost. Is Barwicks organic compost OK

    Sue from Molesworth

    1. Hi Sue. I have used Barwicks before with no issues. Pays to check the ph level to check it isn’t too alkaline (sign it isn’t finished composting) before planting into. Re edging it helps keep the soil contained initially but it isn’t a must. I use it on grass to keep a neat edge and brushcut. You can add more cardboard around that 30cm edging later to keep on top of the grass coming on as an idea. Charles Dowding has a youtube video where is talks about the edging if you have a look at his channel sometime (link to his channel in article). Cheers Dave

  3. Helen Kilmartin

    We have used heavy railway sleepers non treated, pine would be easier but how long would it last ?
    Helen

    1. Not sure. I have some 5 years old still acceptable but generally I use these cheap ones as they are light and I can remove them easily to widen / extend the beds.

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