my spring garden and the no-dig beds

by Sharon Santoni

 

This weekend was spent in the garden.  In these strange times of confinement I don’t take this lightly.  It’s a privilege and a luxury to be able to step in to the garden and I savour every minute.

Many people have written asking about our no-dig beds in the vegetable garden, so I thought you may like a Spring garden  update.

I first created these beds a couple of years ago, following the no-dig method.  Hours were spent, reading, watching videos and visiting other gardens to understand how the system works.  I tried to apply what I had learnt and in November I covered the future beds with cardboard, then layered compost, dried leaves, grass cuttings, more compost, stable manure, more grass cuttings and so on and so on, until someone said that was probably enough.

We also created the wattle fencing around these first four squares of garden.  At the time I wasn’t really sure of what we were doing, and we used hazelnut branches because they are easy to find here.

Making the wattle fencing is pretty easy to do.  Mark out your lines with string, plant the uprights firmly in the ground and then start weaving the branches in and out, being sure to alternate your ins with your outs, if you see what I mean.

It turns out that hazelnut branches were not the best idea, and after three years it was definitely time to renew the wattle fencing.   The no-dig beds however were a GREAT idea.   We never ever dig …. we have no weeds to pull …. and the plants grow beautifully.

So encouraged by these results, I doubled the size of the kitchen garden, but this time we avoided the hazelnut, and I purchased a really large quantity of chestnut saplings, all cut to the same three meter length.

And this is where we are at today.    the new beds are all ready to be planted, in fact I have slightly jumped the gun and began planting last weekend.   In between the six new beds, we have dug out the ground and will be creating sand filled paths here rather than grass.   We found that cutting the grass in between the beds was tricky with the wattle fencing, so sand should work better.

I had some saplings left over and we put together some very simple frames for tomatoes, beans, sweet peas and peas.

It’s a funny thing when you tend a garden.  The seeds in your hand may be minute, but in your head they are already big and beautiful and tumbling over the edges of the beds.  So it is with the kitchen garden.  It still may be baby steps, but in my head I can already envision it brimming over with produce.

I know that many of you are more experienced than me at growing vegetables, and I’d love to know what you are planting or planning to plant this year.  My list so far is pretty long, but I’d be happy to hear your suggestions.

 

And if you are looking for more information and videos about no-dig beds then I recommend the gently spoken Charles Dowding on You Tube, delightful!

20 comments

Deborah McMillan April 22, 2020 - 10:57 am

I like the no digging method. I had so many problems with digging, putting in bricks as borders then the weeds would come and grass would take over the garden so I’d have to start again. The layering of leaves, compost and having the garden beds much higher worked better but I never get the edging/borders right and mowing around it is difficult. Right now our pumpkin patch has taken over a section of our backyard. Am afraid to touch it as I’m eyeing the cute little pumpkins beginning to grow. Looking forward to making soups and pies.
Debbie

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Helena April 22, 2020 - 11:42 am

You have such a large yard, and you have made a great garden out of it. I imagine what a wonderful view and aroma it will be when summer comes. I also plan to plant these flowers https://www.gardenology.eu/flowers-seeds to get good plants in your garden. I think I will collect them for small bouquets

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Teresa Phillips April 22, 2020 - 11:50 pm

I was wondering how your garden was doing. If you have a source I would recommend cardboard then sawdust or woodchips for your pathways. As it rots down in 3-4 years you shovel it off as the most wonderful garden mulch and then renew with fresh. Also wonderful to walk on. Sand will grow weeds which you will be battling, and gets everywhere. Absolutely don’t put gravel down.
Grow everything of course!

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Sharon Santoni April 23, 2020 - 8:38 pm

Thank you for the tip Teresa, never heard of using sawdust for paths! I’ll look into that 🙂

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Heather Ryan April 29, 2020 - 2:33 am

I do this with my garden paths too Teresa. I use woodchips each Autumn and after it rots down it makes the most wonderful rich black soil which I then use to topdress the Potager beds.

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Kelley Norcia April 22, 2020 - 11:45 am

Dear Sharon,
I have loved following your stories and seeing your beautiful photographs. The beds look amazing and I am intrigued. My yard is a blank slate and I’m curious to learn more. Question: I’m not so worried about the weeds as I am about wildlife coming to eat (deer, rabbits, voles). How do you handle this? In the meantime I will have a look at the videos you recommended. Hope you stay safe in these uncertain times.
Kelley
Zone 6 in CT, USA

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Maninder Sandhu April 22, 2020 - 3:32 pm

Hello Sharon , your garden is beautiful . The first I heard of no dig gardening was on your blog . After yesterday’s video on your Instagram , I wished you would share more information and today’s blog fulfilled the wish . Once the lockdown is over I am definitely going to put a couple of beds , using bamboos for fencing . All these years I had no vegetable patch in my garden . Taking inspiration from you I have planted all seeds I could procure including turmeric . Yes indeed it is a privilege and a luxury to be able to step out into a garden.

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Kameela April 22, 2020 - 6:31 pm

It looks lovely Sharon.I have a traditional potager but am finding the digging and weeding a bit tiring as I am no spring chicken. Had a no dig garden in the UK and loved it. I am planning a smaller no dig garden and have lots of hazel but now you’ve said that you’re replacing the hazel with oak saplings. Can I ask where you sourced them from? I think you said Burgundy. . Thank you

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Lynda Seglias April 22, 2020 - 6:41 pm

Do you not have bunnies or deer to eat the items in the garden? We have had so many weeds the past couple of years that this sounds great to try. Thanks!

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betsy April 22, 2020 - 6:58 pm

I will try this . I have moles and voles that are a problem here. I have to stay on top of that.

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Marianna Chryst April 22, 2020 - 7:25 pm

Those free standing supports are neat but would blow away here. I’m using old wooden step ladders. Can’t wait to get planting. M

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Sara April 22, 2020 - 9:02 pm

Sharon,
Beautiful gardens and I have the same kind of beds plus random large containers!! I farmed for 13 years and would be miserable without doing some diggin!! I have downsized considerably but still plant the essentials and lots of Flowers!! Happy Planting and soak up the sun , the virus hates it!!

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Nettie April 22, 2020 - 9:06 pm

I wish I had such a garden but alas circumstances don’t permit. Therefore it’s such a joy to see how your garden grows and follow the progress. Thanks so much Sharon!

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Claudia Hadden April 23, 2020 - 4:20 am

Gorgeous!

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Claudia Hadden April 24, 2020 - 2:30 am

What are the glass domes?

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Susan April 24, 2020 - 4:32 pm

You may want to consider laying down straw in your pathways. I just take flakes off of each bale and lay them down on top of existing weeds and grasses (these will have been cut short). It’s a miracle worker! No weeds at all! Some straw grass will germinate and grow but its very easy to pull up and I use it in bouquets or dry it for dried flower wreaths. It eventually decomposes and I start again the next season. It’s a win all around!

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Shiksha April 27, 2020 - 9:21 am

Can’t imagine how lucky a person who is living in this kind of nature

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Victoria Savu April 30, 2020 - 5:12 am

I grow a large garden each year and spend so much time weeding. I tried the no dig method and to put up a wattle a few years back after reading your blog and failed miserably. Fence rotted and still got weeds. I am going to watch Youtube and try again. Your beds are beautiful.

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Shari May 1, 2020 - 7:59 pm

I do wonder, as some have previously asked – how to keep animals out of these beds. Large and small animals, both. Cats near us tend to use for litter box. What might be a deterrent?

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Joseph May 6, 2020 - 11:58 am

Great article! I like it because is very informative.

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