We have been extremely busy on Primal Farm working hard on producing good honest organic real food. I have become addicted to growing food. It’s not a bad addiction to have but it does mean that I am running out of room and need more garden beds. Our goal on Primal Farm is to regenerate the land. What that means is we strive to continue to improve the soil and not take from it. Unfortunately this is what mono-culture crops do. Mono-culture crops can strip the soil of vital nutrients and this is why some farmers will supplement with chemical fertilizers. Mono-culture crops also encourage the proloferation of diseases and pests relevant to that crop species. Again chemicals need to be used to manage these issues. Personally I don’t want to be eating crops that have been sprayed with chemicals because of the unknown affects those chemicals may have on my health and the health of our customers. And secondly there are questions on how long it takes for man made chemicals to break down in the environement.
Unfortunately our land has about 6cm of top soil and under that there is a lot of rock and clay. Although not insurmountable it’s going to take us sometime to build up and regenerate our top soil so that we can use this to grow nutrient dense food. We are slowly working on this however this is going to take us some time and I needed new garden beds quickly. So we decided to build some no-dig garden beds.
The benefts of no-dig garden beds are:
Easy to make
No digging required
Can be built anywhere and on top of anything
Reduces weed growth
Minimal materials needed
Built using recyclable material
The materials used to build your garden beds will break down into nutrients which feeds your vegetables
A brilliant way to involve the kids
Below are step by step photos of how we built our no-dig garden beds.
The first photo shows where we decided to build the beds. As you can see this part of the land is in terrible condition. It is dry, covered in cape weed and has no top soil. Because we are building on top of the grass we mowed the patch first.
Next we brought in from storage our rotted hay. You can also use pea straw or lucerne.
Lots of hay being used. This hay was bailed two seasons ago and has been sitting in storage ever since. Some of it we left out in the rain which rotted and it is great for building the beds.
Step One: Our garden beds are fifteen metres long and one and a half metres wide. The first layer is going down. When you build your garden beds think of it like making a layered sandwich. The first layer is the hay. You can also use newspaper, pea straw or lucerne as your first layer. The day we decided to make our beds it was extremly windy on primal farm and we had no hope in keeping the newspaper down. Once you put your first layer down you need to water well.
Step Two: Next we put down a layer of certified organic compost. We have been making our own compost but we can’t make enough of it and as we are an organic farm we buy in a compost which is certified by Australian Certified Organic (ACO). We also watered this layer.
Step Three: Next we put down a layer of premium certified organic pellets and watered in well. The pellets have been certified by Biological Farmers Association.
Step Four: Next layer is our own compost. We make our own compost using all of our household food scraps, the dry leaves, lawn clippings and any other organic matter from our farm. We also add in the hay and chook poo from the chook house. Our own compost piles are situated next door to the chook pen which allows the chooks to dig and scratch daily. After this layer we again watered.
Looking good and healthy
Step Five: Next step is repeating the first step and that is putting another layer of hay down and water well.
Step Six: Add another layer of certified organic compost and another layer of pellets. Water well
As you can see in the photos the beds are coming along beautifully. We are going to be making another two more beds in this area.
The last layer is a layer of seaweed from Bruny Island Beaches. Seaweed is an excellent organic matter to use because the sea plants are full of nutrients for your fruit and vegetables.
The seaweed smelt so good. We put this straight onto the garden beds.
And now they are both complete. To build both of these garden beds it took us roughly four hours. And now they are ready for planting. The vegetables going into these two beds are pumpkins, zucchini, corn and cucumbers.
So lets recap.
Materials needed to build your no-dig garden bed
You only need a few materials to start no-dig gardening. And remember you can do this anywhere. If you only have concrete around your home, you can build a garden!
Materials in no particular order:
Newspaper, hay, lucerne hay (lucerne hay contains nitrogen, one of the main plant nutrients), straw (obtained from the hardware store or nursery)
compost, which can be made at home or purchased . If purchased I recommend asking for certified organic compost.
If you have poor soil like us I recommend adding a really good fertilizer such as blood and bone or dynamic lifter. This will help improve the soil fertility.
Seaweed. Head down to your local beaches and forage for some seaweed. In Tasmania you are allowed to take 100kg per person per day. Please check your local area
You can also add as one of your layers chook, sheep or cow poo. Again I do recommend sourcing from an organic supplier who stocks free range and grass fed animals. This will help to avoid any residual chemicals and antibiotics. Remember what the animal eats is passed onto us through the food chain.
And the exciting bit
Fruit and vegetables you can grow in a no-dig garden
Everything! How exciting that you can grow any fruit and vegetables in a no-dig garden. I hope that you will give this a go. Growing food is one of the simpliest and joyous things to do and I hope that you will have fun creating your own food garden. Please share your photos with me on Facebook or Instagram and if you liked this article I would love it if you would share it. My goal is to inspire over one million people to grow their own food.