GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.
Everyone loves a no-dig bed!

I HAVE A FEW UNSUNG HEROES – Esther Deane is one of them. In the 1970’s, in Sydney, she developed a means of building garden beds above ground without the use of heavy machinery and back-breaking work.

NO-DIG BEDS JUST USE THE THEORY OF SUCCESSFUL COMPOSTING – that is having carbon (brown stuff- leaves/ straw etc.) and nitrogen (green stuff – grass clippings/manure etc.) rich layers built up on top of each other – like making a lasagne. Then the worms, and other soil organisms, do the work for you. You keep repeating the layers to whatever height required.

THE BEAUTY OF THIS SYSTEM IS THAT YOU CAN TURN A PATCH OF WEEDS OR LAWN INTO A PRODUCTIVE GARDEN-INSTANTLY! You can even build one, where space is tight, on concrete paving – you just need to make more layers and build a framework to contain it.

This is the only way I make a new garden bed – it’s so easy and works so well. It’s also very versatile. As a landscaper I used this method to make raised garden beds in hospitals for easy wheelchair access, for children in school gardens and for older, more frail, gardeners. 

NO-DIG GARDEN How to make and instant garden bed in 5 easy steps – Think lasagne and you’ll get it!

1. Slash weeds/grass down to ground level. Sprinkle with a layer of ORGANIC FERTILIZER or composted MANURE. Water well. As the grass breaks down it provides a rich layer of ORGANIC MATTER without removing the valuable top few centimetres of topsoil.
2. Lay paper (10 pages thick) or cardboard over the area you want for your new garden bed (do not use glossy paper). This is your organic weed mat.  Make sure you overlap edges and don’t leave any gaps.
TOP TIP – wet paper first then it won’t blow away. Better to start small and increase bed size over time.  Water well.
3. Add thick layer of NITROGEN rich ORGANIC MATTER eg COMPOST/ GRASS CLIPPINGS /SEAWEED/composted MANURES/COMFREY/GREEN WEEDS (not invasive and without seeds). Water well.

4. Complete with thick layer of STRAW/DRY GRASS or LEAVES/LUCERNE/CANE MULCH etc. You can make the bed any height you want by repeating step 3 + 4. Water well. As the layers decompose they will shrink – so you will need to top it up.
5. Six weeks later! You can plant straight away after step 4 by making pockets in the STRAW layer, filling with COMPOST and planting with anything that has a shallow root system e.g. LETTUCE/BASIL/RADISH/BOK CHOY/SPINACH.  You can retain the edge with anything you like – here I have used some thick limbs pruned off a tree.

“Don’t break your back – let the worms do the work for you”

One year later – this bed has never had had a spade near it, just loads of compost!

MAINTENANCE The layered mix of organic materials will quickly break down and you will need to keep topping it up because it will shrink.  This is where compost, compost, compost and mulch, mulch, mulch comes in – the organic gardener can never have enough!  You will be astonished at how rich the soil in a bed likes this becomes producing wonderful healthy food.


  2. COMPOST TEA.  How to make your own organic liquid fertilizer

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