Garden Beds are one of the best Spring Time projects to work on, both by yourself and with your family!
So it’s spring. Heavens above, Yes! You can finally come out of your cave and watch as the sun shoos away the cold. You have been waiting for this moment. You have unpacked your little tin biscuit box of seeds and have already pre-bought new packets of those you used up last year. In your seeding trays, small green heads angle keenly upwards, searching like you for that initial inkling of spring sun. Looking out across the yard you see your homegrown Garden Bed neatly put together and still sleeping soundly in the early shade thrown by your Exotic Thatch Bali hut. But the beds are empty and, on this morning, you can almost hear them calling you to them. Like sirens. You take a step towards their song and then hesitate.
Like coming out of dream you remember that you need to fill those raised garden beds with soil. But with what? Should you order a load of soil from your local landscaping supplies? Worse – should you dig up another part of the garden? Are the blisters already forming as think about where your shovel is? How can you take all the work out of maintaining those beautiful garden beds?
No Dig Garden Beds
The traditional way to grow veggies has always been to cultivate the soil. That means digging it up. And that means lots of hard yaka and can be detrimental to soil structure and the special little guys living in the soil – microorganisms.
As an alternative, Esther Dean living in Sydney in the 70’s pioneered what is now known as the No Dig Garden.
A No Dig garden bed is made from multiple layers of organic materials topped with a final compost or soil layer (two separate things FYI). Unlike digging down into the soil, it is built from the ground up.
To begin with, the materials in the lower layers of the bed simply provide the bulk. But as these materials are organic they begin to break down (compost) and become a nutrient-rich growing medium. These composting organic materials are really good at retaining moisture, and essentially, store water for the garden bed. As the organic materials in the lower levels are slowly decomposing they also produce heat. Plant growth is accelerated by warm soil conditions and this translates to lush green vigorous growth.
What you need:
- Lucerne hay (aka alfalfa)
- Straw bales
- Compost (organic is always preferable)
- Animal manure or organic fertiliser (try seaweed!)
Newspaper – Lots of it. Approximately half a centimetre thick. Water it in well. You could use cardboard instead but make sure it is unwaxed and you will need to soak it in water beforehand.
Lucerne – Adding lucerne hay is the first step in bulking up your homegrown veggie beds. It should be about 10cm thick**. Water in well.
Manure and compost – sprinkle a thin layer of animal manure over the top of the lucerne hay. You can also add a little more volume and nutrients by adding compost as well. Water in.
Straw – add about 10cm of straw next. You could use sugar cane mulch or pea straw instead. Anything with a high carbon content. Water in well
Repeat Layer 3 and Layer 4 until you fill in the beds to the level of the container
Some gardeners will add a complete layer of potting mix or compost. But all you need to do is push (no digging required of course) a hole into your top layer, backfill with a little leftover compost or some potting mix and plant your eager seedlings into it. And voila!
Water with some seaweed extract and sit back and listen to the sirens of spring.
**The depth of the layers are guides only and will depend on the depth of your raised beds. This is what we use.