I try hard to improve my garden in small ways each year. Some ideas are bigger or more ambitious than others and some succeed better than others. And that’s all part of the enjoyment. It’s an ongoing learning curve, it’s creative and productive and I love it.
My current new project is these no-dig beds in the vegetable garden or potager. I’m sure that many of you have no-dig beds already, but this is all new to me. Last Spring I visited the Jardins du Prieuré d’Orsan, with its famous raised no-dig beds. I loved their wattle fencing and was amazed at how beautiful yet how low maintenance the garden is, especially for its size. A few weeks later I was in Vita Sackville West’s garden at Sissinghurst and there again were some lovely no-dig beds, yielding impressive quantities of fruits and vegetables in the potager. It got me thinking …
The garden here is rather high maintenance. I love our mixed borders, and we have lots of roses and various perennials that need dead-heading regularly. Keeping up with the flower beds leaves little time for weeding the vegetable garden, but I hope that the no dig method is going to prove miraculous.
For the past ten or more years, our little potager has been fenced in with some home made picket fence and has quietly produced cutting flowers alongside tomatoes, salads, beans, courgettes and pumpkins. It comprises 4 beds, each measuring 3metre square
The white fence was designed to lift off the posts for lawn cutting, and was repainted every other year …. pretty for sure, but an additional garden task to handle
I read a lot about no dig beds, and watched videos too. The principal is simple. Smother the existing ground with cardboard, and layer with leaves, compost, humus, and soil to create rich fertile ground that the worms will adore and to prevent the old weeds, grass etc from growing back. Having read all about the technique I finally decided to make the leap of faith and go no-dig.
The wattle fencing was easily created from hazelnut branches woven in between wooden stakes. To my surprise it actually took longer to measure and trace the straight lines on the ground than to weave the branches. Next I covered the ground with cardboard, followed by horse manure, autumn leaves, grass cuttings, compost, more leaves and a thick top layer of compost. Finally, for good measure, and because I’ve seen it done in the tutorials, I added half a bale of straw to each square.
As you can see the weather has been pretty cold here, but I like to think that the worms are feeling warm and chirpy in the soil, and that come next spring they will have cultivated these beds for me, so I can leave my gardening tools aside and simply plant or sow directly in the ground, without any digging or hoeing.
So now of course, because I am sure that so many of you know alot about this gardening method, I’d love to hear about your experience please. Have I done it right? What should I expect in the way of weeds next spring? How long will the wattle fence last?….. I have so many questions, and am excited to see how this plays out.