No-dig veg beds

I think it has been over a month ago now, that I started work in the bottom of the back garden on quite a large no-dig garden bed. It begins next to the kids area/cubby house and the idea is to build up enough organic matter to plant into above our heavy clay base. I’m also extending it along the back of the garden, around existing fruit and nut trees to try and hopefully even improve the existing clay a little.

My vision in this little corner for a child-friendly vegetable garden – a tactile, edible natural playground including sunflowers, tall corn, epic ‘jack-in-the-beanstalk’ beanstalks, peter-rabbity carrot patches, pumpkins and watermelons and herbs – so, a place to grow some of the bigger veg that doesn’t fit easily into my raised corrugated beds. A place for play and experimentation where the kids can hug a pumpkin and build a scarecrow.

I was most recently inspired by seeing the no-dig process on Gardening Australia in Costa Georgiadis’ verge garden. We did try a no-dig potato garden bed back in 2007 on the farm so it wasn’t a completely new process to me, but I hadn’t considered it for this space until seeing Costa. His enthusiasm and energy is infectious, and once I realised it would work well for this space, I was hooked on the idea.

On television it looks fairly straight forward and quick — and yes, the process does have both of those attributes – but the reality for me with two small children, is that it isn’t quick or even easy to begin. Even gathering enough newspaper, and materials to start was quite a task. We don’t buy newspapers, but a quick call out on Facebook for ideas about where to source a large bundle of newspapers (everyone puts them into the recycle bins these days) had a friend suggesting to hit up the local free newspaper office a few suburbs away. So I did that – fronted up in my gardening clothes with my two kids, and they were very generous with providing me with some newspapers. Great!

Then actually getting the time to physically do the work was my other challenge. It’s an exercise in patient multi-tasking between amusing and feeding the kids, getting the little one down for naps, keeping the household chores moving (although they did get neglected just by being in the garden) and reserving enough energy to work at the computer in the evening to keep my career afloat. This is why, although this might not look like a huge job, for me, this is epic achievement in the garden! It’s infrastructure, and not just maintenance!

You can’t really see from the photos I managed to take, but this technique is sometimes called lasagna gardening, because the process is that you build up layer upon layer of materials including straw, and any other organic materials you have handy. There are lots of different recipes, in fact here’s another recipe on the Gardening Australia website and another recipe – both different slightly from Costa’s verge garden recipe but this goes to show that as long as you get the balance of ingredients right, you can whatever organic material you have or want to acquire to do this.

And so, weeks on….I’m actually still working on it. I had to enlisted my husband to finish trenching the heavy clay for me, and to build the stone wall as edging. Alas, I do have to accept my physical limitations these days! The edging is important in this location as we have rampant kikuyu grass. Great drought tolerant ball play area, but not a friend to the veg bed. We’re getting there though and at the same time I’m slowly planting out seeds into my little green house and organising what we will sow directly – the kids will be involved a lot in the actual planting bit .

Gardening with young children is different, because you have to fit it in around everything else and you have to accept that sometimes it’s not going to work and you have to bail and come back another day. It can at times be frustrating when you have to do something that is difficult to involve them in. I’m all for getting dirty, and they certainly did do that, but keeping the little one out of the freshly-laid dung and making sure he wasn’t eating the lucerne was sort of important to me. 😉

The before
The before
The first layer – newspaper

My “helpers” er…reading about lasagne gardening. 😉
After a few layers of manure and straw and compost
You can’t tell from the photograph, but there are more think layers here. This photo shows one of young macadamia trees.
The start of the edging trench that I dug. Really, you should probably do your edging first, but I was not looking forward to digging through the heavy clay and needed to see some progress for inspiration first!
Part of the wall that my husband built, exactly what I had in mind – using ‘reclaimed’ stone from our local landscape supplier. I really love it.

Work is still in progress….so more updates soon….

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