Following on from previous article in our Edible Garden Series creating an edible garden part 5
No Dig Gardening, as the name suggests, involves ‘no digging’. “No Dig Gardens” are also known as layer gardening or lasagne gardening. All of these names refer to the way you create different layers on top of layers in a “No Dig Garden”. Much like creating a dish of lasagne, you form equal layers of each ingredient (organic matter) to give a balanced, fertile planting area.
The “No Dig Garden” has meaning on two levels, as usually the “No Dig Gardens” are installed in areas where there is no way you can actually dig into the surface of the ground level. For example, one area that would be ideal for a “No Dig Garden” would be an old compacted gravel driveway or another area would be an unused concrete slab, say where an old shed may have once been. On another level, it also means that you don’t actually ever need to dig into the soil of a “No Dig Garden”, meaning you do not need to cultivate or tune over the soil.
If you have a space like this in your garden where the soil is highly compacted, the soil could be terrible quality and too hard for you to improve, it could be a hard surface or it could also be on a patio, this style of gardening could be your answer.
This style of gardening lends itself nicely to vegetable growing as long as you get a good amount (say about 6 hours) of sun and it would need to be a fairly flat area. The benefits of a “No Dig Garden” are that without the disturbance of digging the soil, organisms are able to create their own ecosystem which in turn create better soil structure. It also attracts more beneficial soil organism, insects and fungus. This improves the quality of the soil and helps to make the soil healthier.
Depending on where you are locating the garden, you may need some type of loose edging to border the area. This could be timber, stone or even some recycled materials. Once a framework is decided on, you can start building your layers. Only ever use organic matter/natural materials in your garden. You will also need to wet down thoroughly each layer as you put it down.
Normally the lowest level of the “No Dig Garden” will have the largest gaps between the materials, as you move up through the layers, the gaps will become smaller between the materials. This will also mean that usually the materials you put into the garden will become finer. This is partly connected to the drainage of the bed, it is also part of the decomposition of the bed and the overall structure of the bed.
Building a “No Dig Garden” still needs to take into consideration the levels and balance of carbon to nitrogen that you use – much like a compost pile. You would need to layer the beds so that they alternate between a nitrogen layer and a carbon layer. A nitrogen layer could be your vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, green clippings shredded down to a small size and grass cuttings (check there is no seeds in any grass clippings).
A carbon layer will be cardboard such as toilet or kitchen paper rolls, newspaper and cardboard boxes. You can also add deciduous leaves, dead foliage, twigs and in the lower layers, branches.
To start your “No Dig Garden”, you would lay down a layer of heavy timber, say old branches or pieces of timber or a wood mulch. These would be thick pieces that will help with drainage and also overtime as they decay, they will attract beneficiary soil micro-organisms. This could be about 10 – 15cm high. These are then covered with a layer of smaller, finer, woody branches or you also use a finer organic wood mulch. This could be 10cm thick. This gives you a solid base to start building from. You would then lay down a layer of soft green waste such as garden clippings, lawn clippings or deciduous leaves mixed with some compost. This could be 10cm thick. Then you could do a layer of straw, lucerne, small branch cuttings or even newspaper or cardboard. This could be 10cm thick. You could then do a layer of compost mixed with decomposed cow manure or chicken manure or Blood and Bone. This could be 10cm thick. You could then do a layer of lucerne or straw mixed with compost. Then another layer of garden clippings sprinkled with compost and natural fertiliser. This could be 10cm thick. Over time, all of these layers will start to breakdown. They more than likely will have a slightly more acidic pH. You could help balance out the pH by adding a layer of garden lime or even potash or ash from a wood burning fire place in between one of the top layers. Always ensure each layer has been wet down before adding the next layer – this water is like adding the bechamel sauce between the pasta sheet and bolognaise mixture in a lasagne.
Once constructed, you will need to continue to water the area. It will be about 60-70cm in height. It will most likely take about 2 months or so to decompose down enough so that you have a layer of soil on the top layer to plant into. You will need to have a supply of organic matter to add to the “No Dig Garden”. This might be vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, garden clippings etc. Ideally the garden should be maintained at a minimum height of 40 cm or so.
Please note if you are starting your garden in an area where there are weeds or grass you need to remove them and also do a very thick layer of cardboard or newspaper on the ground first to stop them from shooting through the new garden area.
I hope this Edible Garden Series has been helpful to you in your vegetable growing.
If you have any areas of gardening you would like me to focus on in upcoming articles, please let me know. If you would like to read the total Edible Garden Series in one go, you can subscribe to my free newsletter by going to www.tinyletter.com/glenicebuckdesigns or email email@example.com or phone or text me on 0417077386.
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