How to Create a No-Dig Garden

by Abi, Isle of Wight Franchise Owner

How to create a no dig garden - picture of a little boy in rainbow boots watering an allotments

Traditionally, garden beds have been dug. The process involves digging down two spade depths and turning the soil over. However, a new way of gardening is gaining popularity – no-dig. Although we say new, technically no-dig gardening has been around for a very long time. In more recent years, no dig gardening has been led by Charles Dowding, a gardener, author and youtuber. No dig gardening can now be seen throughout prominent gardens across the UK including Kew Gardens, RHS Wisley and Blenheim Palace and Gardens. If you are interested in how to create a no-dig garden hopefully this blog post will help you get started.

What is no-dig gardening?

No-dig gardening is a method whereby rather than digging the soil, compost and other organic matter is added on top of the soil to create beds. Usually, a layer of cardboard is laid down followed by compost. This is done to imitate how nature produces fertile soil through decomposition of fallen leaves and die back which is broken down by the organisms and fungi in the soil to feed the soil and make the nutrients in this organic matter more readily available.

So why chose no dig gardening?

  • Much quicker to get started – because you don’t need to spend hours digging soil, it is much quicker to create a bed and get planting
  • Less weeds – contrary to what you might think, no-dig gardeners frequently rave about the decreased amount of weeding they have to do once they move to no dig
  • Less watering needed as the soil retains moisture more easily
  • No disruption to the soil structure so the ecosystem of the soil is not damaged

How to start your own no-dig beds

  1. Choose your location – The first thing you’ll want to do when adding in new growing spaces is to decide on a location. We recommend a south-facing site for vegetable growing near to a water source (remember rainwater is much better for plants than tap water).
  2. Lay down cardboard – to reduce the amount of weeding lay down a layer of cardboard across the plot ensuring the edges overlap. This is not necessary if you do not have established weeds, but we find it easier. Please note that cardboard boxes can sometimes contain plastic. This cardboard is often shinier in appearance and is best avoided.
  3. Add organic matter on top of the cardboard to create your no-dig beds. If you are using a raised bed, then add the organic matter into the raised beds. We recommend well broken-down compost as this allows you to plant immediately into the beds. You’ll want to add around 4 inches deep of organic matter.
  4. Mulch your borders/paths – this is especially important if you aren’t using raised beds as it stops weeds from spreading into the beds from the edges. We like to use woodchips to create paths as it provides a really clear border, it helps to stop too much mud from compacted soil and it gradually decomposes adding extra nutrition to the soil.
  5. Add in your plants and watch them grow!

At our Little Muddy Boots Locations, every site uses no-dig methods, usually in combination with raised beds. At our Isle of Wight location, we are trialling the no-dig method without raised beds. To see how our no-dig beds do this year, why not follow us on social media to see how our vegetables are growing.

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