21 February 2008

No Dig Gardening

If you know me, you'll know that I'm not a big fan of hard work. Don't get me wrong, I love making things and I love that feeling of achievement when you create something out of nothing, or achieve what you set out to do. But I don't like that hard labour stuff. That's why I'm a huge proponent of no dig gardening. It's the way my mum always gardened growing up, and it worked for her, and it's working fine for me!

Sounds great huh? So how do you do it you ask. It's easy.

You will need:
  • Old newspapers
  • Compost, manure, or any type of fertilizer
  • Hay or grass for mulch
  • Water
Firstly, pick out a spot for your garden. I was making another rectangular bed next to my existing ones. I've added in the green lines in photoshop to show you. I didn't mark out the bed, but you could easily do this with string or sticks or anything if you wanted it exact. We mowed the area beforehand, as the grass here was out of control from all the rain. The ground was still very wet, but if it's dry, it's a good idea to give it a through watering (or as through as you can if you have water restrictions) beforehand. I also sprinkled some Dolomite around, as our soil seems to be deficient in calcium.

Firstly, start to spread out the paper in the area you want to cover. Depending on the strength of your grass, it will need to be anywhere from 3 to 6 sheets thick. This grass is evil stuff, so mine was about 5-6 sheets thick (I don't get too exact about it).

The sheets should overlap by a couple of inches, so the grass can't grow between them. If it's windy, you'll want something to stop it blowing away. Handfuls of grass, straw or compost works well.

About half way through, I realised I had a bale of straw sitting there, and I didn't need to run around the lawn picking up the newly mown grass.

Once the paper was down, I collected a bucketful of mostly done compost.

And sprinkled it around the newspaper. I also added some handfuls of composted chicken manure that I bought at the garden shop a while ago.

Then more straw. Nice and thick this time.

And more straw! It should end up about 4-5 inches thick. It will compact as it breaks down.

Once the hay bale was gone, I moved the garden bed up past it, to the edge of the watermelon plants that were growing there. Here is the finished product. Now it should be given another good watering in. I didn't bother though, as it was bound to rain again, which of course, it did.

If you want to put some edgings around, they should go on top of the paper, so that the grass can't grow between the paper and the edge. I don't have any right now though.
Now it's ready for planting. I don't dig through he straw to plant, just put a hole in the straw, and put some dirt, compost or potting mix into the hole, and plant either seeds or seedlings directly in there. The plants roots will find their way down through the newspaper and into the soil as they grow and it breaks down, and by then, the grass should all be dead.

I plan on putting some pineapple tops in here, as well as maybe some broccoli/cauliflower, and who knows what else. I'll have to see when the time comes. It's very hot here again now, so the bed has been lying unplanted for a while. Once this heatwave passes, I'll think about it then.

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