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What is a No dig garden?
A simple, easy and great way to grow your food!!
The No Dig Garden is essentially a great big compost heap containing all the things that plants like best, arranged in layers just like big lasagna.
It can be built any where (on concrete, earth, clay) having no essential relationship to that surface (all though on earth it will contribute to the improvement eventually thanks to MR worm.)
I encourage you to use your imagination and also to follow the principles of both companion planting and permaculture to maximize the benefit of the system.
While me and nature prefer lots of curves and no straight lines or rules, i have formated this instructable with in a set of rules, so those who are not familiar with it can see how it works to start with, when you have the hang of it feel free to experiment.
The advantages: No Bending, NO digging, NO weeding, (use weed free straw), friendly pest balance, (use companion planting / learn to share with nature), Reduced watering, (Keep it moist) Creates humus, Attaches them friendly worms, your crops love it!
Step 1: Ingredients
For the purpose of this instructable the ingredients list is for the square 1.5m x 1.5m x 1m shown in the picture.
The garden can be made of pretty much any thing so long as it includes a good equal mixture of nitrogen and carbon rich materials, below are my favourite ingredients.
-- A flat site on any surface - concrete, earth....
-- Forming material of your choice - i prefer chicken wire, you can us any thing to hold it while it settles, some choose to leave the form on.
-- Cardboard boxes, clean, broken down and flat - 0.11m cubed
-- Pea straw - one conventional bale - 0.5mx 0.5m x 1.0m
-- Veggie scraps -8 x 20 litre bins
-- Cow manure - 2 x 20 litre bins (solarised - black plastic bag)
-- Organic Blood and bone fertilizer - 6 handfuls
-- Straw - one conventional bale - 0.5mx 0.5m x 1.0m
-- Compost - two handfuls per plant
-- Roll of chicken wire or shipping pallets for edging
-- Water supply to soak
The total construction cost depends on how much you can acquire ( check out www.freecycle.org in your area) and how much you have to buy.
Step 2: Design
Choose the site to reflect what you want to grow.- NDGs don't do well in full shade unless you desire to grow only toadstools and the like!
The best being an open, sunny spot on any surface - preferably level
Your garden can be any shape and size provided its no smaller than 1.5mx 1.5m x 1m, below this it looses moisture to fast.
The shape is largely dictated by your ability to reach the center of any part of the bed ,with perhaps a bit of overlap, with out having to stand on the bed its self.
Its a good idea to stand balanced and comfortable at the side of your proposed bed and sweep your arms to indicate the centers of the bed.
In order for a NDG to work properly ( particularly when you start using your imaginations a bit more) the following 2 ingredients must be present;
> ingredients that contain Nitrogen and those that containing Carbon.(generally its one or the other)
There must be an equal amount of both, for the system to work well..
Step 3: Construction
Choose a retaining wall (temporary) - in this sequence I have used shipping pallets, subsequently as you will see at the end of construction i have changed over to chicken wire that is easier to shape, handle, acquire and lets in more light
Erect in the shape you desire.
the purpose of the retaining wall is to keep the pile vertical while it settles, or in a area where you have limited space.
Step 4: Construction - Layers
lay the base matieral of your choice out with in the walls you have created to a depth of approx 75mm ( 3 inches)
As you lay the materail down soak with water, this also helps to prevent it blowing away on a windy day. Since this bed was built i now prefer to use only heavy clean cardboard boxes broken down as the base layer.and layer flat to height of 75mm.
Step 5: Construction
Place a layer of pea straw next (future gardens have demonstrated at least 0.5m tall is best, broken straight off a compressed bale.)
Getting good quality weed free pea straw ensures that there are no weeds in the finished No dig garden
Step 6: Construction
A layer of vegetable scraps, collected free from the back of my local fruit and veggie store. Minium of 50mm thick.
Remember that any thing that contains seeds might grow - this is either a bonus or....
Step 7: Construction
A layer of cow manure sprinkled with generous amount of blood and bone organic fertiliser (commerically avalible organic fertilser in NZ - made from crushed bone, dried blood from slaughter house)
you can use other animal manures, all though chicken needs to be thoroughly seasoned other wise it can make a huge and fatal change in the ph of the garden and kill plants - as it dose when applied to a normal garden bed.
horse manure tends to very full of seeds in comparison to cow, and like your pea straw any seeds introduced to the mix will only grow later...
when collecting cow manure fresh form the paddock its a very good idea to solarise it for a few weeks to kill off the partially digested plant material etc in it -this is best done by placing it in a black plastic bag , closing the bag and leaving it in hot sunny location for a couple of weeks.
Step 8: Construction
Followed by a loose layer of normal straw Ã¢â¬â also about minimum of 0.5m height
Like the Pea straw and manure - take the extra effort to find weed seed free straw, particularly as this is close to the top of the layer.
Step 9: Soak and Rest
just like making bread, Soak the whole pile thoroughly and leave to settle for about three weeks, in this period the pile (just like a compost heap) creates heat and breaks down a bit, while settling.
Don't feel tempted to plant earlier, like i did and wonder why all the plants keel over.
See the picture for a summary of the layers.
Step 10: Planting
choose your favourite plants and companions.(as seedlings) Scoop out about a two hand full hole in the top straw layer and fill with compost,plant in to this, and water the compost.
If you live in a particularly hot environment you will need to monitor the moisture content and water ever week or two.
For more pictures of gardens so far, visit my collection pagevisit my collection page.
Under Albums ( right of page ) veiw the different No digs..
just go down below the 'adds" and review the sub albums. under the album called "what is a NDG" you will find my reference list with heaps of useful book titles on organic gardening in general.
Step 11: Recommended Reading
See image below, my collection so far on all things NO Dig.