my no-dig beds an autumn update

by Sharon Santoni

You may remember last spring when I showed you my brand new no-dig beds in our potager.   I was happy with the way they looked, but had no way of knowing how they were going to behave as the season moved on and most of all whether the utopian promise of “no more weeds” would be fulfilled!

So many of you were kind enough to share your own experience with no-dig beds, or ‘lasagne compost’, that I thought you may like an update at the end of this first growing season.

For those who didn’t follow this chapter, my no-dig beds are basically my former potager, with a new wattle fence around and covered with a thick layer of cardboard then alternative layers of compost, dried leaves, mulch, grass cuttings, more compost etc.  I finished with a layer of straw and several of my readers were concerned that the straw would attract slugs, but so far we have been lucky, and actually it seems that the straw prevented stray seeds blowing into the beds.

Having created the beds in November last year, I kept a close eye on things as the winter came to an end.  No weeds in view!   The spring and summer were spent planting young tomato plants, salads, herbs.   Still no weeds!  In the rest of the garden we were spending hours pulling weeds and digging over beds, but in the no-dig potager, all we had to do was plant, water and enjoy!  It seemed too good to be true.

My first attempt at sowing beans did not go well, the young sprouts were devoured by some greedy caterpillars, but when I resowed a few weeks later, having installed two tall home-made wigwam climbing frames, the caterpillars had disappeared and the beans shot up towards the sky at high speed.

So here we are in late September.  There are still tomatoes and beans to pick, some eggplant too.   We finished all the salads, and we are waiting for the brussel sprouts, and eating lots of rhubarb and still I have hardly seen a weed!  I am very happy!  So much so that in November we are emptying this mixed border at the end of the garden and making it into a no dig flower bed that will be replanted in the spring.   Hopefully for maximum colour and minimum maintenance!

And now I have a question for those of you who already have experience with these no-dig beds.   At the end of the season, my plan is to cut back the surviving plants and simply leave them where they fall, then cover again with alternate layers of compost, leaves and mulch until next year.   But I’m wondering about the cardboard?  Would it be useful for me to use a layer of card again, or is that only necessary when you first create the beds and need to suffocate existing weeds?

I hope you are enjoying this change of season wherever you are in the world, thank you for reading me and thank you for your precious help with my garden plans.

 

 

 

 

19 comments

Becky Burgess September 21, 2017 - 11:59 pm

So attractive, and maintenance free, how much fun to garden like that. I always put newspaper and straw in my veggie garden and never had any weeds, but the rabbits would have their babies in the straw and I would hear them peeping. Everything in your yard looks so green and lush thanks for sharing. Becky

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Colleen Taylor September 22, 2017 - 1:25 am

I don’t have any experience with a garden like this but I do love what I see. Brussel sprouts you say! I can’t get enough of them & make them often. Where I am in my world, the weather is starting to be gorgeous here & it’s about time!

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Sandra Parry September 22, 2017 - 1:35 am

You are so lucky, every thing is so beautiful, what I wouldn’t give to have that view.

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Stacey Trap September 22, 2017 - 1:55 am

It looks lovely! If I were to do this in an old potager garden that is now filled with a mixture of weeds and some lovely perennials would it kill off the perennials? The perennials consist of allium, mustard, mint, cosmos, scented geraniums and lavender. We didn’t plant anything but a few cherry tomatoes this year and the weeds have run amok!

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Laurie September 22, 2017 - 2:45 am

I always add a layer of newspaper at the end of my veggie season in the garden beds on top of a layer of compost. Then another layer of compost, mulch or mushroom manure to hold it down. It keeps the beds weed free and the paper itself composts into the garden bed; I just shovel it in and any large pieces, I pull out and throw into the compost pile. Isn’t lasagna gardening fantastic?

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Lynne September 22, 2017 - 3:00 am

I pull the roots out,lay them down, sprinkle lime over then put a layer of newspaper and start layering again. I don’t know if its necessary but I like doing it that way.

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Lenore September 22, 2017 - 3:38 am

Beautiful. Love the gardens. I first plant my garden, water it,then lay down a thick layer of The Wall Street Journal (yes, after I have read it), water it again and then top with either straw of mowed grass that has not been treated with any chemicals. At the end of the season I work everything under, add compost, Fall leaves and let it sit over the winter. I am in Zone 5 and get snow to top everything until Spring when I again start from scratch. You probably could leave this for a couple years and then start over. Love the photos.
I love your house and would like to build one like it someday…what is the layout of the rooms in your house, if you wouldn’t mind sharing. Love the photos.

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JaneEllen September 22, 2017 - 7:08 am

Since I know nothing about gardening can only say your yard is gorgeous, that photo with sun slanting thru is truly lovely. Your home is so pretty also, all the vines crawling around the windows makes it look like a fairy tale.
Enjoy Fall and don’t work too hard gardening. Happy weekend

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Taste of France September 22, 2017 - 9:47 am

I told my husband we needed to do this, and he scowled and said “too much work.” Now I will show him the update. I am not much for gardening myself, but the weed-free angle makes it sound attainable (I just want the results–organic produce).
As for tearing out the plants and putting them back down to compost, the guy who trimmed our trees told us to never rake the leaves but to mow them so they go back to the soil. He said the trees take from the soil, and the leaves will give back the same nutrients that were taken out. Sensible.

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Hazel Lavelle September 22, 2017 - 10:41 am

Dear Sharon , it’s always a pleasure to receive your blog , I really look forward to reading you .
Yes summer has faded ” had we have to embrace
The coming season , but it’s so nice to reap the treasure from the garden , so glad your raised beds worked
Thanks Hazel from Manchester uk xx

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Jeanie AlFuhaid September 22, 2017 - 11:37 am

Hi Sharon, It looks like your summer garden was a resounding success. It looks so productive and beautiful. I wouldn’t bother with the additional layer of cardboard at this point.

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Our French Oasis September 22, 2017 - 12:49 pm

Having also converted to the no-dig system for the vegetable garden this year, we have been astounded by the results, a few weeds but totally manageable and amazing produce. We have been following the advice of Charles Dowding in the UK and he says to place a couple of inches of compost now in the autumn and let it sit for the winter, he doesn’t mention adding further cardboard. But lots of your readers mention newspaper which does make sense. We didn’t use straw as the slugs and snails worried me! It’s been quite a learning curve but a very good one!

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Susan COOPER September 22, 2017 - 2:15 pm

I thought maybe you would like to read this pdf. https://www.sgaonline.org.au/pdfs/factsheets/no%20dig.pdf

Good luck.

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Adrienne September 24, 2017 - 4:24 pm

Hi there,
I’m a Horticulturist & Master Gardener in Canada. I’m a lazy gardener and also a firm believer in weed less gardening. To this end’ I am a fan of Lee Reich and his methods. Lee is a retired Cornell prof and USDA soil researcher, but now occupies his time tending his own garden, lecturing and writing. His book “Weedless Gardening” is one of my go to resources. He also writes a great blog. To visit his website, see the link below:
And no, I do not have any connection to the man other than years ago attending one of his lectures and buying his book.

https://www.leereich.com/

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Cornelia Martin October 2, 2017 - 1:39 am

I love your website…but have had some pop ups of nudes and bad stuff…I checked with my Verizon carrier and they suggested that the virus… is from your end….so please check for viruses on your site ….thank you, it seems I am not the first to have had this issue with your beautiful website….so just passing on the info as I am sure you would want to know….
Cornelia

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Cenepk10 January 20, 2018 - 11:49 pm

No more cardboard! I made a no dig potager last year & it was the same way – amazing results! This spring- I will just add a new layer of compost to existing beds. I did lazagna way last time. I added 4 new beds today. Just cardboard & layering up the compost. Can’t wait !

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early autumn in my garden - MY FRENCH COUNTRY HOME September 13, 2018 - 3:12 pm

[…] end of summer season- early autumn is always a little difficult to negotiate in the garden.  The beds look slightly dishevelled, the colours are beginning to turn, and this year’s […]

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Ciel March 25, 2020 - 6:58 pm

It seems like the best time to prepare a lasagna bed is in the fall. But here it is spring and I want to get going on this year’s garden. Is it still possible, do you think, to get a good garden in this year?

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Cenepk10 March 25, 2020 - 9:23 pm

It takes time to break down. But you can buy soil to add to the top & plant in it of course. I added this fall several inches of wood chips per the Back To Eden method. Every time it rains, getting fertilized with microbe tea ! Gorgeous results. Very pleased. Good growing to you & have fun !

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