22 Responses

  1. Australian Gardening Granny
    Australian Gardening Granny at |

    Thank you for these clear instructions for a no-dig garden. It would be particularly useful for folk with poor soil. veggies couldn't help but do well.

  2. Little Home In The Country
    Little Home In The Country at |

    What an excellent tip. I've always put cardboard/newsprint down first but your method makes way more sense. Thank you, Morag 🙂

  3. claudia
    claudia at |

    I have to star my garden on top of the ground at my place. We live on an old river bed which means I have tons of river rock very close to the surface. I think I will use the river rocks that have surfaced to build a rock planting bed, I will have to cement them together, but this should give me good drainage in the process.

  4. Cityfood Grower
    Cityfood Grower at |

    Good tips on design Morag. Interested in your comments on the toxins within newspaper.

  5. Chrissy K
    Chrissy K at |

    Great Morag – I have done this too and been very successful – I started doing this when I lived west of Toowoomba and we had about 4 years of rainfall under about 250mm and I was on tank water. This method just kept in more moisture and when I put newspaper on the bottom the whole system became dry so quickly. I use to plant directly in with a handful of compost too – mainly because I have not wanted to wait! I am enjoying these blogs – keep them coming 🙂 Chrissy

  6. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    Hi Chrissy, Happy New Year! Thanks for sharing your success story with doing gardening this way. I agree, it really does help get gardens through dry times. I always use big handfuls of compost too – at the beginning, but also when a gap emerges and I want fill it with something else. I loosen the soil a little with my transplanter, add another big handful of compost and plant another seedling (or seed).

  7. Inch Community Roots
    Inch Community Roots at |

    Nice and clear. going to give this a try. My back won't take the digging anymore.

  8. Unknown
    Unknown at |

    Great article. I got some good ideas. Thank you.

  9. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    Good luck with this. I also find it helps to reduce bending over weeding later on too. Few weeds come through the newspaper layer if done well.

  10. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    Happy gardening!

  11. Grandma Bear
    Grandma Bear at |

    Re: someone's question about toxins in newspaper ~ here in the US lead has no longer been an ingredient in newsprint ink for many, many years. I'm not sure there are any other toxins, as the paper is something that people are constantly handling. Good question for a bit more research.

  12. Meg Hopeful
    Meg Hopeful at |

    I have been waiting and waiting for the "nip" of Autumn and it's finally here! Now, I can build up my veggie patch again and I'm going to try the newspaper on top as you suggest. I always have heaps of free little seedlings popping up from my compost (I am no master composter:) Do you plant into the pockets of compost straight away or do you let it sit couple of weeks before planting? I usually let it "cook" for a while before I plant but wouldn't mind planting a bit sooner if weather permits.

  13. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    I plant straight away, unless I have used lots of fresh manures and food scraps – but usually I like to compost these (at least partly) to being with. If you have a nice blend under the paper, adding a good handful of finished compost into the hole will let you plant immediately.

  14. Ruth Fahmi
    Ruth Fahmi at |

    Hi Morag. My daughters and I attended your edible spaces Workshop and are excited to get our no dig garden started. How do we prepare our chook manure to use in the garden? And is there a commercial compost/manure we can use to start now? Thanks, Ruth

  15. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    Hi Ruth, You can either sprinkle it on the ground as the first layer in the no-dig, or use it to make compost. There are commercial varieties available – check for an organic certification stamp on the bag. Happy Gardening!

  16. Unknown
    Unknown at |

    Hi Morag,
    I'm wondering what type of seed free mulch you use? Around here (Southeastern U.S.) there is a lot of spoiled hay, but I fear that even though it's spoiled, it may contain a lot of seeds. We've mostly used straw over the years, but lately it seems that there are tons of seeds even within the straw. Just looking for more ideas. Thanks!

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    Makes so much sense. Thank you so much Morag, I am enjoying learning from you and ingenious young Hugh! 🙂

  18. Narelle
    Narelle at |

    Thank you for this very informative article.

    Putting the newspaper on top of the new topsoil layer is a fabulous idea.

    Have you had any experience with swales? What are your thoughts on them?

    We have a sloping site in the Central West of NSW. Hot, dry summers with 600mm of rain per year. Brown clay soil.

    Kind regards


  19. bruce
    bruce at |

    Slugs? Slaters (woodlice)? How do you do this without them exploding and eating everything come spring? Do bulbous weeds give you trouble if present? (e.g. Oxalis, Guildford grass)

  20. auriel12
    auriel12 at |

    Just found you on YouTube recently and you really got my attention when you were forking the ground barefoot.

    Just finished a new bed per your instructions except used straw bales instead of seedless hay. Looked pretty good until the chickens made little nests in the straw. They love it.

    I live in Oakland California on about 1/3 of an acre, so we call ourselves urban farmers. We have a fruit orchard with apples, plums, peaches, blueberries, cherries, figs, lemons and some olive trees. Our garden is a re-start every year except for the strawberries, kale, artichokes and asparagus, so hope to make that different soon using permaculture methods. We have 8 layer hens and bees to help us out.
    Thanks for all the information and the time you spend to share it with us.


  21. Unknown
    Unknown at |

    Hi Morag
    I am using many of your methods, thank you for sharing your knowledge. I have changed to your no dig method recently. We have had many weeks without rain and finding the soil is getting drier under the newspaper despite watering. Do you just water the plants at the base where they were planted or the whole mulched area. Its seems the water is not penetrating through the newspaper layer or have I done something wrong.

  22. Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life
    Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life at |

    Great question. When things get really dry, one way to get it nice and moist again is to stick the hose under the paper on the uphill side (highest point) and gently let it soak. Before things get that dry I usually try to do, as you suggest, water the plants at the base.

    Depending on how your pathways are set up, you could actually have an overhead sprinkler to give the garden a good soak. I do this sometimes because I have designed my little pathways to be water-collecting soaks.

    A good idea is to regularly stick your finger in under the paper to check moisture levels and then water if necessary.

    I hope that helps. Happy gardening