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How to Create a No Dig Garden

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Part 1 Setting up the Location

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    Choose a large, level site for your no-dig garden. A good amount of space is 4 by 5 feet (1.2 by 1.5 m), though you can make it smaller or larger. An ideal area should get 4 to 5 hours of sunlight a day.[1]
    • If the area is not very level, even it out with garden tools. Then, then fill in the gaps with things like twigs, leaves, and bark.
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    2

    Contain the garden by building a wall around it. This is optional, but it can be helpful when it comes to containing your garden in one space. You can use wooden planks, or you can use materials such as branches, bricks, or rocks.[2]
    • The material you choose for your garden depends largely on cost and the look you’re going for. For example, wooden planks are commonly used and look nice, but they are more expensive than branches.
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    Mow or cut the area in preparation. Once you've cut the grass and weeds, do not remove these cuttings from the area. If you leave them there, they can help fertilize your no dig garden![3]
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    Water the area thoroughly. Once your no-dig garden is established, it will retain water. However, while it's being established, water runoff and dry soil are a concern. Check the soil daily, and make sure you water to keep the soil damp, if necessary.[4]
    • You can also let the next rainstorm do the job. If you do let a rainstorm water your garden, it won’t be necessary to water it yourself until the soil begins to dry out.

Part 2 Adding Layers to the Garden

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    Cover the area with 3 inches (7.6 cm) of mulch. You can also use old hay or collect leaves in autumn to use as mulch. The hay or leaves will gradually break down and nourish the soil underneath, and while they do, they will keep moisture in and weeds in check.[5]
    • You can also purchase mulch from your local nursery.
    • Another option for the bottom layer is plain, brown cardboard.
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    Use newspapers as a barrier between the ground and your garden. Avoid the glossy, colored, or advertising brochures, and opt for basic newsprint instead.[6]
    • You will need quite a bit of newspaper, so it is helpful to save newspapers for a few weeks.
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    Fill a wheelbarrow with water and insert the newspaper. The newspapers need to be wet when they are laid out on the mowed or cut ground. Leave the newspaper until it is completely wet and then remove.[7]
    • If you don’t have a wheelbarrow, use another large container.
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    4

    Layer 3-4 sheets of newspaper on top of the mulch, making sure to overlap. Your newspapers should have between 1 and 2 inches (2.5 and 5.1 cm) of overlap. Make sure you cover the entire space in your garden.[8]
    • Spread thickly enough, the paper and other matter will block light to whatever weeds or sod you cover with it.
    • Certain weeds, such as Bermuda grass, don't respond especially well to smothering and seem to come up through just about anything. If you try newspaper for such weeds, use extra and make sure that the offending weeds remain buried on all sides for at least 2 years.
    • Use more paper if the ground is uneven.
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    5

    Add a layer Lucerne hay until you can't see the newspaper. If you can’t find Lucerne hay, you can also use straw mixed with grass clippings.[9]
    • Lucerne hay can be purchased from horse stables or your local gardening store.
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    Water in between each layer in your no-dig garden. After the Lucerne hay, water the area until it is wet but not soaking. Continue to water after each layer you put down.[10]
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    7

    Spread a 1 inch (2.5 cm) layer of fertilizer over the hay. Try natural commercial fertilizer. However, you can also use well-rotted horse, chicken, or cow manure as fertilizer as well.[11]
    • You can purchase fertilizer at your local gardening store.
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    Put down a 1 inch (2.5 cm) layer of straw. This is just your basic straw that is very easy to find. Make sure to cover the entire garden area.[12]
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    Finish with a 1 inch (2.5 cm) layer of mulch. You can use the same mulch that you used underneath the newspaper. You only need 1 inch (2.5 cm), though you can use more if you'd like.[13]

Part 3 Planting in Your Garden

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    1

    Create small, 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep holes. You can dig the holes with your hands or another instrument. Each hole should be at least 3 inches (7.6 cm) apart.[14]
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    Fill the holes with compost. The holes should be almost or completely filled with the compost.[15]
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    Create a 12 inch (1.3 cm) hole in the compost and plant. You can plant 2 to 3 seedlings per hole.[16]
    • Choose your no dig vegetables carefully. Leafy greens often do well in no-dig gardens, while root vegetables, beans, and peas may not grow as well.
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    4

    Keep the soil in your garden damp at all times. How often you water your garden largely depends on what you plant. Check your garden daily to see how wet or dry the soil is. Water whenever the soil feels dry.[17]
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    5

    Wait a few months to see significant growth. Root vegetables, beans, and peas call be grown in a no-dig garden, but they take more time to grow. Vegetables won’t grow especially well in the first season, but they will begin to grow better in the second season after planting.[18]
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    6

    Add compost once or twice a year to keep your garden healthy. You can make compost out of things like yard clippings, table scraps, eggshells, and leaves. Compost at the beginning of spring and at the beginning of autumn if you plan to do it twice a year.[19]

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Create a no dig garden

Tips

  • If you have worms, ants, or other digging creatures around, they will help spread the organic matter you add into the upper layers of soil.
  • Plan paths alongside your bed so that you can avoid walking in it. Walking on soil compresses it, which is not desirable in planting areas.

Warnings

  • Make sure that you have permission to use the space before beginning your no-dig garden.

Things You’ll Need

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