Growing plants without digging has somehow gained a lot of press over the last few years. And I bet that many people would agree that gardening would be more fun – perhaps more people would even be more inclined to explore agriculture – if there was no need for all the unavoidable back-breaking hard work like digging that’s commonly involved in traditional gardening. You may be surprised to hear this but digging is actually NOT a compulsory part of growing plants at all! Since undisturbed soil can develop its own aerated structure which in turn allows fruits and vegetables to grow more easily and makes weeds grow less, why don’t you try to save time and effort by helping the natural processes to work with you?
Your Step-by-Step Guide
- Start by preparing the following materials: newspapers, cow or horse manure, brown organic materials like dead leaves or hays/straws, blood-and-bone organic fertilizer or chicken manure, and compost.
- If over concrete, just place a 10-cm layer of dry branches onto the surface in order to allow air into the bed. After that, thoroughly cover the area with thick layers (at least 6 pages thick) of damp newspaper.
- But if it’s over grassed area, proceed at slashing the grass and weeds and then sprinkle the chicken manure. You may water it in to help break down those wild plants.
- Soak the newspapers in water. Cover the area thoroughly with thick layers of damp newspapers (6 pages thick at the minimum and are overlapping by 10-15 cm).
- Soak your brown organic materials then alternate the following on top of the newspaper layer: 10-cm of soaked brown matter and 5-cm of cow or horse manure. Remember to water well after each layer is added.
- Keep adding up these layers until you reach the desired height, preferably not less than 30 to 40 cm.
- Ensure that the top layer is made up with the brown organic material as it will act as an excellent mulch to hold water, clamp down the weeds, as well as insulate the soil.
- When it comes to planting the seedlings, just pull the mulch aside and add a handful or two of compost to the hole that you should be creating to plant the seedling. Ensure that your no-dig garden is in a fairly sunny location.
Some Simple Reminders
- Ants, worms, and other digging creatures will help in spreading the organic matter you have added into the layers of soil.
- Walking on soil compresses it which is not good in planting areas so plan paths alongside your garden bed so you can avoid walking in it.
- While most newspapers use harmless soy ink for color printing, some may still be using petroleum-based colored inks which are toxic. Avoid using those with color inks.
- If you are a bit of an OCD, remember that a number of combinations and proportions tend to work so don’t get too hung up on exact formula to use. Instead, try various but safe materials around your house which can be easily and inexpensively obtained.