Intimidated by the thought of starting your first vegetable garden? Starting from scratch can be a daunting task for any gardener. Where should I put the garden? Do I have to clear a space in my yard? These are all questions I asked myself before making my first venture into vegetable gardening. The one thing I knew was that I didn’t want to have to do a lot of digging. It’s hard work, and the thought of doing that made me not want to garden at all.
The good new is that a lot of digging is not necessary. There is this wonderful concept called a no dig garden. Instead of digging into the ground, you build up layers starting from the ground up into a raised bed, resulting in deep, rich, fertile soil.
Here is a six step guide to planting a no-dig garden for beginners.
1. The first step doesn’t require any physical labor at all, because it’s as simple as determining what to grow. If you are beginner, stick with plants that are things you like to eat. You don’t want to go radishes if you don’t like to eat radishes, for example. For me, the things I knew I wanted to grow were pretty simple. Every week I go to the store and buy some type of leafy green, a purple cabbage and tomatoes. I decided to narrow my first garden down to these three vegetables. Root vegetables may be more challenging the first year in a no-dig garden, so narrow your choices to vegetables that grow above ground.
2. Next is evaluating the amount of sun needed for the things you want to grow. Most vegetables require a fair amount of direct sun, although there are some that will grow in the shade. For example tomatoes require at least 8 hours of direct light per day. I found a pretty good resource for this information in this article.
You will need to make sure the plants you choose need a similar amount of sunlight.
3. Step three is finding the spot in your yard that meets the requirements. This is easy to do on a day off, just pop outside and see if the spot you have in mind is in direct sunlight, most of the day. You will need to check every hour. It can be anyplace. For example, I chose a spot up against a fence in my yard where I knew my children wouldn’t be going. You might choose a spot in the middle of your lawn or a hidden patch off the alley. It really doesn’t matter as long as the sunlight requirements are right.
4. Lay down your three part base. The first layer is newspaper or leftover cardboard. You will need to lay down a full section of newspaper, not just one sheet if you go that route. Cardboard or newspaper work well because they act as weed blockers and both decompose fairly easily. You will need to wet down the base once you have it in place. You can do this with a watering can.
The second layer is hay. You need to break the hay up and put down about a 4-inch thick layer. Try not to pick a windy day.
The final layer is compost. There are lots of types of compost you can purchase if you don’t make your own. Any garden center will have a selection.
Once you get all three layers down follow up with water to help it set in place. You can add a border of wood, rocks or brick to make it look more finished. Once you have your layers in place let them sit for a few weeks before you take the next step.
5. The most fun step is to plant your seedlings. You don’t want to get something with a root ball that is much larger than the depth of your base. After a few weeks of setting, the hay will break down enough where you can scoop out a spot to put your new plant. It’s a good idea to get a bag of potting soil to fill in around your new seedling. At this point it’s time to water your new plants and it’s a good idea to add something with some nutrients to the water like compost tea. This article has a few suggestions on nutrients for new plants. http://tipnut.com/plant-brews/
6. The final step is to watch and mind the garden. Check it daily to watch for pests. If you spot problems early they are easier to treat. Examine the leaves for pests. There are lots of natural ways to get rid of pests. This article has a few suggestions.
Some plants, like tomatoes, may need vertical support like stakes or a cage.
If you want to see more watch this helpful video.