No-Dig (Part 3): Ground Preparation

In the first post of this No-Dig series I described how decompressing the soil with a garden fork is the first step of the process. While that’s true, there are some ways to prepare the site even before forking it over. Currently we are “tractoring” ducks…

…and chooks in areas where we plan to install beds. The fowl eat the grass and fertilize the future garden bed. Because we have two particularly aggressive grasses and other invasive weeds, it is important for us to knock them back before putting in new beds.

After the birds have done their job, the former lawn looks something like this. (Note the banana peels. We get “baking bananas” for $2 a box from a local veggie shop. We eat some and feed some to the ladies.)
But you may not have birds or even want them. Or maybe your municipality is even silly enough to outlaw them. Other techniques I’ve used include covering the ground with black plastic for extended periods of time (1 month to 4 months). Because plastic is UV sensitive, I extend its useful lifetime by covering the plastic with weeds. This serves multiple purposes. Along with making the poly sheets last longer, it is a way to dry out the weeds for later use as mulch and it looks much more attractive than a sheet of plastic laying in the yard.
And finally, to continue the local, abundant and free theme from the two previous posts, we happen to have heaps of roofing iron on our section. We use it to knock back aggressive grasses and weeds before bed building. Just make sure you weigh it down to protect against gusting winds.


Referring back to the first post in this series once again, the bed that I built on the solstice started out looking like this.


The iron had been there for about 3 months and the pile of topsoil on top of the Pink Batts plastic had been there for about a month. Although you can see a little bit of cacuya grass between them, I pulled that foliage off before placing an extra thick layer of newspapers there.
And in no time 100 garlic were in the ground.
An easy no-dig installation should be part of an easy, low-maintenance/high-productivity management system. And the key to that, in my decade plus of experience, is managing weeds. Two important parts of easy weed management are never stepping in the beds (see #1 in this series) and building in low maintenance edges (see #1 in this series).
I have run many workshops in 3 different countries on low-maintenance/high-productivity organic management. If you would like to host one in your area, please contact us. If you are a publisher, this management system is waiting for a book deal.
It is a great time to be building beds in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. Get on to it!

Peace, Estwing

One thought on “No-Dig (Part 3): Ground Preparation”

  1. Using newspapers has always worried me. Many papers in the US now use soy based inks, and they are (reputedly) safe. But some newspapers are not safe for mulch or compost, because of the composition of their ink (which include toxic cadmium, lead and chromium). Most newspapers no longer use these toxic inks, but have you enquired whether the newspapers you are using are safe?

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