12 Secrets to No-Dig Gardening Success

If you’ve ever wanted to try no-dig gardening, here’s your chance to learn how! Check out these 12 tips for a successful no-dig garden.

No-dig gardening (also known as sheet mulching, sheet composting, or no-till farming) was first popularized in the 1930’s, but there are many different methods that have been used over the years to create great gardens with less back-breaking work.

No-dig gardening is a very sustainable gardening method, as it does not require extensive soil tilling, weeding, or application of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. It is designed to protect and maintain natural soil structure and microbial action as it occurs in nature.  Thus it is becoming more popular among modern sustainable gardeners.

This article shares one family’s no-dig gardening adventure, plus some helpful tips for building your own no-dig garden:

There are many ways to implement a no-dig garden. What follows is just one method.

1. We selected a section of the yard that would get at least six hours of direct sunlight….

2. We set up four main beds, so we can practice crop rotation, which rests the soil and reduces chances of plant pests making a comfortable home in the soil.

…. Each year plant the same vegetables per bed, but one bed further round the rotation.


3. Because our soil is exceedingly clayey, we sprinkled gypsum through the grass to help loosen up the clay. Then we laid out salvaged railway sleepers to give the four main garden beds some definition. These beds were well watered down.

4. Atop the wet grass we laid out big sheets of cardboard (all their staples and packing tape removed). This helps supress weeds. The cardboard was thoroughly wetted down too.

5. A bale of chopped lucerne straw was spread over the soggy cardboard. And half a bale of long stem lucerne straw covered the lighter chop. This was watered in also.

6. On this went a thick layer of what might be called soil ‘matter.’ It comprised material rescued from the floor of an old chicken coop that we’d shoveled out, and sieved through an old wire bed frame (to avoid weeds. twigs and rocks). It was a mixture of ancient chicken manure, soil, sawdust and compost scraps….

7. Over this soil matter we scattered a bale and half of plain straw and gave the whole shebang a deep soaking.

8. We let it ‘stew’ a little while we waited for our organic seedling and seeds to arrive in the mail….

9. With these other ingredients in place we spread apart, with a trowel, strategic holes in the decomposing layered no-dig garden bed. Into these holes we dropped a couple of scoops of the soil/manure…. The beauty of this approach is that you only need use soil where you have plants. It’s cheaper and saves on the volume of soil that needs to be humped about in a wheel barrow.

10. Using a ‘dibbler’ stick we created a hole in the soil, and inserted the seedlings and seeds to their recommended depth and spacing. These were watered in with mixture of water and seaweed extract, to promote root growth. Then we pulled the straw loosely back over the mini-plots to reduce the soil from drying out.

11. Of course it doesn’t take long for snails and slugs to find these succulent new growths. So we…

12. Water for the first couple of weeks to help the seeds and seedlings establish. Then let the straw mulch provide the soil with shade and to hold in any moisture from rain, dew or fog. But otherwise the garden should look after itself by-and-large. If weeds do poke through they can be pulled up, or simply smothered with another layer of straw.

The many steps indicated here might make it seem a drawn out process. But if you had everything together, it could all be set up one day on the weekend. Once set up, your No-Dig Garden shouldn’t need more than a few hours tending each week.


For the full article, including pictures, visit TreeHugger.com

Photo Credit: Warren McLaren – Treehugger.com.


Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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