No-Dig Gardening and Raised Beds - Good for the Soil and Easy for You

by KathleenDuffy

You don’t have to strain your back or pull a muscle when gardening. The easy way is to use raised beds and garden without digging at all.

When I had an allotment at first I was completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the task in front of me. Grass a yard high and ground as hard as concrete. But then I discovered ‘no-dig gardening’ and raised beds - and things began to look a lot simpler.

I am sure anyone who is a keen gardener already knows all about ‘no-dig gardening’ and about raised beds too. But if, like me, these were once as obscure as the science of nuclear physics, then I hope this article is going to be easy to understand!

I've kept it very simple - there are more complex ways to tackle no-dig gardening and raised beds. For instance, there's 'Lasagne gardening'! But I'm lazy and the less effort the better!

The raised bed goes hand-in-glove with the ‘no-dig garden’ method of planting. For physically challenged or bone-idle gardeners, this is an ideal technique.

So - What Is A Raised Bed?

A raised bed is an environmentally-friendly plastic or wooden framework which fits together into a (usually) square shape creating a boundary for your planting space.  The pieces click together easily and they come in various sizes, a limited colour scheme (usually brown or green) and if they are wooden they are often primed against rot and the primer is usually environmentally friendly too.

They can also be stacked upon each other to increase the height, which is wonderful for people who find bending difficult or who have to use a wheelchair.  

Raised beds can be found on line or at your local garden centre.  Here’s some examples - although there are many variations on the raised bed theme. (Of course, if you are handy you could make your own out of used planks or bricks.)

No-Dig Gardening - It's Simple and Versatile

Once you’ve decided where you want  your raised beds  don’t dig the soil.   It’s actually better for the soil if you don’t dig it because plants grow better in undisturbed soil with its worms and insects remaining peacefully in their habitat.   

Seems like the perfect excuse to me! 

If you have tall grass and weeds then cut these down to ground level.  Construct your raised bed on this area, and then, inside the raised bed area,  cover the remaining ‘stubble’ with about four layers of cardboard from old boxes and/or newspaper.  These layers discourage the weeds from growing and they eventually die back. The cardboard or paper will eventually rot down.  (Some people don't like to use newspaper in case the printing ink is harmful to the soil.)

You will find that you will have a lot less weeding to do in the future with this method. Hurray!

Now  fill your raised bed with  good compost, appropriate to whatever you decide to grow.  Give it a good soaking.  Plant your flowers or vegetables and wait for the brilliant results.

 

Some Books on No-Dig Gardening

Ruth Stout's books are very popular - she's in her nineties now and wrote these books in her eighties!
Organic Gardening: The Natural No-dig...Gardening Without Work: For the Aging...How to Have a Green Thumb Without an ...

Raised Beds for Disabled Access

Vegetable beds for disabled access
Vegetable beds for disabled access

There's Lots of Advantages to No-Dig Gardening...

and raised beds are versatile too!

No-dig gardening not only cuts weeding down drastically, but the compost becomes rich and crumbly.  Every year, as the original compost sinks down a bit, you replace it with more compost and this soil is always very fertile.

If you want to stack your raised beds one upon another to raise the height of the bed you can buy a kit which enables you to do this.  If the beds are quite high, you can fill the bottom few inches with builder’s sand or fine rubble  to save on compost.  However, it’s still a good idea to put down the cardboard and newspaper bottom layer first.  

Raised beds are also useful on an area that has been concreted over.  You can buy liners for the bed which allow the water to drain away when you water your plants and vegetables. 

Raised beds and the no-dig gardening technique makes gardening possible in the most unlikely places.  It’s becoming quite fashionable for office blocks to turn their empty roof space into gorgeous gardens, for tenement blocks to do the same, for patches of derelict land to be taken over by the community using  raised beds and no-dig gardening and for special areas to be created for people with disabilities to easily grow their own produce.

 

A Community Garden from Raised Beds

Leswalt Community Association, with the involvement of several youth groups
Leswalt Community Association, with t...

The possibilities are endless with no-dig gardening and raised beds - so even with a tiny space in a back yard or on the flat roof  of your office or housing block you can grow fruit, flowers and vegetables easily and painlessly!

If you are daunted by gardening, this is definitely the way to go!

A variety of Raised Beds

From Ebay.com

New 84" x 42" Raised Garden Bed Planter Kit Gardening Vegetabl...

Time left: 1 day, 19 hours
Fixed price: $62.50  Buy It Now

Greenes 4 Ft. X 8 Ft. X 10.5 In. Cedar Raised Garden Bed

Time left: 2 weeks, 6 days
Fixed price: $100.29  Buy It Now

Emsco Easy Pickers Raised Garden Grow Bed with Stand Outdoor L...

Time left: 5 days, 10 hours
Fixed price: $68.95  Buy It Now

48" X 24" Metal Raised Garden Bed Flower Vegetable Planter Gro...

Time left: 1 week, 6 days
Current bid: $36.99  Place bid
Updated: 04/23/2014, KathleenDuffy
 
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KathleenDuffy on 04/24/2014

gosh Frank! I rest my case!! Thanks for that interesting information! :)

frankbeswick on 04/24/2014

I know that on my allotment carrots will not grow if directly planted in the ground, but they grow well in raised that are filled with compost, and they can grow quite long and fat. Potatoes in the raised beds are ready earlier than their ground-grown fellows.

I read somewhere about a horticulural scientist who has one and a half acres of marginal land on the Brecon Beacons, hills on the Welsh border that have not very good soil. By using a combination of raised beds, polytunnels and chickens he gets £20000 worth of vegetables and eggs from it. That's about £24000 dollars worth.

KathleenDuffy on 04/24/2014

Abby , I agree! You can't go wrong really.

Sheri, yes, it looks so tidy yet when they are full and things are in bloom you don't even notice the raised bed.

AbbyFitz on 04/23/2014

I will say that any tiny success I have had in gardening has been by using this method. It's so much easier than in ground gardening.

Sheri_Oz on 04/23/2014

I really prefer raised beds - not only is it easier on the back but it also looks neater in the garden.

KathleenDuffy on 04/23/2014

Helo ologsinquito! Yes, it really does cut down on the workload! :) Thanks for reading.

ologsinquito on 04/23/2014

Great article. This makes it all look so easy!

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