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SHS Garden Journal Blog

Children's Activity for May: No-Dig Garden Patch

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The No-dig Garden Patch

Creating a No-dig garden patch is the perfect growing environment for edible plants, as they love the rich organic matter nourishing their growth. It is also a fun activity to involve children in. The no-dig garden is made up of layers of ingredients – in our experience being the most fertile of growing spaces filled with life particularly worms. 

'The No-dig Recipe' by Esther Deans

Esther Deans' “Gardening Book – Growing without Digging” first published in 1977, shows us the way to garden without digging and how you can even grow food in a home made garden bed sitting on concrete. I excitedly found a copy of this book in a second hand bookstore.
Below is a tried and tested variation of Esther’s Recipe: 
Newspaper or cardboard (non-glossy)
Autumn Leaves (no gum leaves)
Blood and Bone
Compost (home made)
Comfrey or fresh grass clippings (from your garden)
Manure (chicken, cow or horse)
Loose straw or Certified Organic Sugar Cane Mulch
  1. Soak newspaper in a wheelbarrow using water and 1 cup of molasses. Molasses is great for promoting soil microbes.
  2. Decide on the location of your garden (a sunny spot), measure and mark the length and width of the garden bed using flour. If grass is long within this space you could trim back a little with clippers. 
  3. Sprinkle the area with Blood and Bone and then layer with soaked newspaper or cardboard to suppress growth of grass. 
  4. Cover the entire area with sheets of newspaper or cardboard layers at least ½ cm thick.  Overlap the newspaper or cardboard by a third leaving no gaps for grass to grow through.
  5. Create an edge for you garden with bricks or pavers, etc placed on top of the outer edge of newspaper/cardboard.
  6. Sprinkle some Blood and Bone (1 handful per square metre), home made compost (from your compost bin), manure (chicken if you have it, otherwise cow/horse is fine) and comfrey and/or fresh grass clippings from your garden over the newspaper.
  7. Add a layer of Autumn Leaves.
  8. Lay the surface with a thick layer of lucerne padding. 
  9. Water well – you can add diluted worm juice if you have it.
  10. Sprinkle some Blood and Bone (1 handful per square metre), homemade compost (from your compost bin), worm castings, manure and comfrey and/or grass clippings. 
  11. Spread a thick layer of loose straw or certified organic sugar cane mulch over the top.
  12. Water well with diluted Seasol liquid seaweed solution.
  13. Repeat from steps 5 to 8.
Allow the bed to rest for two weeks. This will give the ingredients an opportunity to start to break down and combine, before you start planting. During this time continue to water the garden bed. 

When ready to plant make pockets in the garden bed and fill with some home made compost or mushroom compost – plant your seedlings into the pockets of compost. 
We recommend a mix of Asian Greens (bok choy, tatsoi, pak choy), silver beet, kale and beetroot to be planted in May. Please email us if you would like to order a seasonal tray of local organic seedlings.  $30 for 3 dozen.

For ideas of what to plant in May go to:
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