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Creating a No-dig Garden

We need plants for the oxygen we breathe, many foods, fibres, building materials, medicines and fuels, and for the pleasure of beautiful flowers.

Students have the opportunity to build and maintain a garden and take ownership for it. They will gain a greater understanding of plants as they investigate the process of germination, the stages in a plant's life cycle and what plants need for growth and survival. This unit links science with literacy and numeracy in the classroom.

The soil is far more than just a medium to anchor the plant and tree roots. Soil is a complex ecosystem, teeming with very diverse life and the basis for your garden. This thriving ecosystem also needs to be fed, like a ‘big hungry beast’.

Digging exposes the organisms within and dries them out, hence the ‘no-dig’ technique. When the big hungry beast becomes exposed, it loses a lot of its organic matter and nutrients, such as carbon and nitrogen. This results in a lack of soil structure, compaction and a loss of water retention.
 

Healthy Plants
An abundance of healthy plants in the no-dig garden at Bellambi PS
Making Layers
Creating a no-dig garden with Clontarf Academy students from Dubbo Senior College
Harvesting Potatoes
Students at Berkeley PS find it easy to harvest potatoes in their no-dig garden
Kale and Silver-beet abundance
A successful no-dig garden at Warrawong HS
Layers
Layers starting to build in a no-dig garden
Garden Heaven
A flourishing no-dig garden

Create your own no-dig garden

There are almost as many different ‘recipes’ for the perfect no-dig garden as there are gardens themselves. Follow the basic principle of layering greens and browns and soaking each layer.

Possible materials:
newspaper/cardboard, pea straw, lucerne, hay, manure, compost, blood & bone, sugar-cane mulch, seaweed solution, leaves, lawn clippings, shredded paper or plants

Steps:
There are almost as many different ‘recipes’ for the perfect no-dig garden as there are gardens themselves and if you follow the basic principle of layering greens & browns and soaking each layer, you can’t go wrong, but here’s a recipe that won’t disappoint.

  1. Find a suitable location, with lots of sunshine. Aerate the ground, giving the garden the opportunity to tap into the microbe/organism highway beneath. If making the garden over grass, lay a thick bed of newspaper or cardboard, ensuring this overlaps leaving no gaps and give it a good soaking of water.
  2. Over the newspaper/cardboard lay some semi processed food scraps/compost or some blood & bone type pellets. Then lay a generous layer of straw or another carbon material that you have available. A tip is to soak this carbon layer in a seaweed solution or some worm juice to activate it.
  3. After the carbon layer, spread a nice thick layer of nitrogen such as fresh grass clippings or manure and then continue with alternating generously between carbon and nitrogen. Suggestions for brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen) layers are in the diagram below.
  4. A no-dig garden can be made from locally sourced materials and diversity of these materials improves the quality of the garden. Diversity will attract a greater variety of microbes, organisms and minerals all working together to nourish the plants. Some suggestions which assist are soaking your carbon layers in a clay/seaweed solution which adds trace elements and helps bind minerals and adding molasses to your nitrogen layers to activate the bacteria and feed the fungi.
  5. Make the top layer ‘brown’ organic material, which acts as a great mulch to suppress weeds, hold water and insulate the soil.
  6. To plant seeds or seedlings, pull aside the mulch and add one or two handfuls of compost into the hole that you have created. Make a hole in the compost and plant the seed or seedling.

NOTE: The no-dig garden will approximately half in height in the first six months as it composts away. Therefore, if for example you want a 30cm high vegie bed, build a 50-60cm no-dig garden.

 

 


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