How to Build a No-Dig Garden

How to Build a No-Dig Garden

If you’re just starting your garden out, or want to expand what you have it may be time to start looking at a raised garden bed – or a no-dig garden. Not only are they great for easy and straightforward planting, but can be perfect for gardeners with mobility issues or ones that don’t want to constantly bend down low or sit on the ground.

What other benefits are there to raised garden beds or the no-dig approach?

  • They are easy to amend the soil, and create your own perfect soil blend.
  • There is very little maintenance you’ll have to do to them if you build the beds right.
  • They can be added to just about every yard, or anywhere in your yard.
  • You’re started fresh, so the first year – hardly any weeds at all! Then each year after it’s a minimal weeds compared to in the ground.

So – how do you build a new Raised Garden Bed for your new garden?

There are a lot of different methods to make your own raised bed – but the basics are the same. What you need:

  • A frame of some sort, choose the wood or material of choice and start there.
  • A weed barrier
  • Soil

The Basic Construction:

The hardest decision is what to build your bed out of. There are bed systems that are just out of wood, or you can get metal bed systems as well. Some people build their raised beds out of scraps they have laying around, or even out of fire pit hoops. It may be the look of the material, or it could even be the cost of the materials at the time (considering how high wood prices currently are still), but figure out what type of material and shape you want your raised bed.

After you figure out your material choice – be sure you know where you are putting the garden! It’s a lot easier to build the bed in one place than to try to move things later.

Before you build the bed, be sure to a weed barrier down. You can use newspaper or cardboard, but for long-term protection consider getting a commercial weed block. This isn’t that small roll you find at the hardware store – most have a 5-10 year weed protection in direct sunlight. This will be under the bed, so it will last even longer. Don’t worry about removing the grass or any weeds there might be, just put the barrier on top and start building from there. The barrier will actually kill anything below it.

Build the bed on top of the weed barrier and make sure it holds the barrier down completely. Now start layering your materials in the bed.

While a lot of people don’t suggest doing it – my base layer is always the cheap topsoil from the store. Why? It’s far enough down that it’ll hold water fine but the plants will get the nutrients from the layers on top.

The next layers should be compost/manure blend and then a good garden soil blend (organic if you prefer but is not required). Continue and keep repeating the top layers until the bed is close to the top of the frame.

Remember this will always take more dirt and materials than you think.. always. So grab a few extra bags in case.

Your bed should be ready to plant in! Now, this doesn’t mean your bed is the most nutrient-rich soil ever and everything the plants need. Look at getting some good plant food and a proper feeding schedule set up. But you can just start dropping the plants in the dirt and start growing.

The Lazy Bed

A simpler – lazy bed – version is to lay down a surface mulch of organic material such as raked leaves or mulched up plant prunings, then put in a band of fertilizer such as horse manure or poultry droppings. Add another layer of organic matter another fertilizer and then some compost or topsoil on top.

The advantage of the lazy bed is that it is cheaper and can be constructed using organic material from your own garden.

The garden will probably be higher than the walls – this does not matter. Over time the level will drop and it will need to be maintained by an infusion of compost and surface mulch. Generally, maintaining the bed as weed-free is easy because the deep-rooted weeds from the original soil will have been smothered and the weeds that do come up are “blow-ins”, shallow-rooted and easy to pull out.

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