Can't Afford a Tiller? Try a No-Dig Garden!
A garden you don’t have to dig might sound too good to be true. But it doesn’t mean just planting your seeds in the grass and hoping for the best. There is a tried-and-true method for layering materials to cultivate a luscious garden.
So what are the benefits?
Soil is a diverse ecosystem full of micro-organisms that are typically beneficial to growth. Digging disrupts that ecosystem with sunlight and air exposure. Without those micro-organisms, the soil tends to compact, which can lead to increased erosion.
Using a no-dig approach saves the soil ecosystem and reduces erosion!
And it takes less effort than traditional tilling.
Who doesn’t want to save time and effort?
First and foremost, choose an area of your yard and get a measurement, so you know roughly how much material you will need. If it is a grassy area, it will need to be mowed down as low as possible first.
You might opt to add a border to help keep your beds neat and in place. You can use stones, repurposed bricks, or even logs or wood planks.
Layering the Materials:
Step one - cover the area with thin cardboard or brown paper, then thoroughly wet
This serves as a weed barrier to reduce them popping up in your garden bed. Cardboard will take longer to break down, but serves as a more effective barrier. Wetting it helps begin the breakdown process while also hydrating your layers.
You can even use damp newspaper for this layer! As long as it is a biodegradeable paper product, you can use it. (just avoid glossy paper)
Step two – cover the wet paper layer with grass clippings
Fresh grass clippings are rich in nitrogen, an essential nutrient for your plants. Other nitrogen-rich options include green weeds (without roots) and alfalfa. You need about a 4-inch deep layer.
Step three – layer with organic fertilizer
Manure! You can use manure or compost for this layer. You will need it to be about 1 inch deep.
If you don’t have manure or compost available, use soil mixed with a commercial fertilizer.
Step four – add a layer of loose straw
You need about 4-5 inches of straw.
Step five – layer with 3-4 inches of compost
Again, if you don’t have compost available, use soil and fertilizer.
Step six – top with 2-3 inches of natural wood mulch
This will help the soil retain moisture and keep weeds down.
(you can also use straw as your top layer)
Last, but not least, soak your new bed and let it all marinate. Let it rest for a few days, and you are ready to start sowing your seeds!
This technique can also be used on more dense soils, such as dry clay or rocky terrain. You just have to start with a thick layer of twigs, dried leaves, and other dried carbon materials.
Have you tried this method before? Are you going to try it this year?
Share your challenges and successes!