Create a nutrient-rich environment for your vegies with no-dig garden beds
Turn part of your lawn into a flourishing vegetable garden. Image: Geoff Beck
If you have lawn and want to turn part of it into a flourishing vegetable bed, try the no-dig method.
A no-dig vegetable garden is constructed on top of the ground and can even be created over existing garden beds or hard ground. It is built up in layers, and it is a bit like making a triple-decker sandwich or a lasagne.
They can be designed in any shape or size to fit the available space, but should be in a sunny position. Follow these steps to make your own.
BUILD a frame for the vegetable garden using bricks, concrete blocks, straw bales or recycled timber. We used railway sleepers.
COVER the base of the bed with 10 layers of newspaper, overlapping the pages to prevent grass or weeds growing through. Wet the newspaper thoroughly with a fine hose spray
SPREAD a 20mm layer of homemade compost or Scotts Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Garden Compost over the newspaper. Cover with a light layer of Yates Dynamic Lifter or cow manure.
LAY lucerne hay to a depth of about 100mm, making sure there are no gaps. Water well.
TIP Baled lucerne hay is best.
ADD more compost and Yates Dynamic Lifter or cow manure and another layer of lucerne hay, then wet the hay. Add as many layers as you like, depending on how high you want the bed to be. Finish with a layer of hay.
MAKE 150-200mm deep pockets in the mix where you want to plant the seedlings and fill them with compost.
PLANT the seedlings in the pockets and feed the vegetables fortnightly with a soluble fertiliser such as Powerfeed. After several months, the layers will eventually break down and form a rich humus. You can now add more compost to the bed and plant a second crop.
Dig for health
Researchers at the University
College London and the University of Bristol in the UK discovered that the friendly bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae commonly found in soil can affect the brain in a similar way to antidepressants.
Evidently, the bacterium activates brain cells to produce the chemical called serotonin, which is involved in mood regulation. No wonder people get addicted to gardening!
Six steps to success
Make sure your vegies thrive throughout the summer months by following these pointers.
Sun, sun and lots of sun guarantees success when growing most vegetables. Lettuce and rocket are the exceptions, as they like shade from the afternoon summer sun, as well as protection from the wind.
Good soil is the essence of organic vegetable gardening and is essential for the best results, as well as a high yield. A healthy soil that is regularly fed with compost and manures is full of beneficial worms and microscopic organisms that provide an excellent start for all vegetables.
Dig in lots of organic matter like compost, poultry manure or cow manure before planting, and do this on a seasonal basis before planting a new crop.
Organic matter adds structure to the soil, helps to retain water and slowly releases nutrients.
Even though you’ve already added manure or compost to your garden bed, your vegetables need extra fertiliser as they mature.
The faster vegetables grow, the more tender and sweet they’ll be, especially leafy greens. Feed them at least monthly with an organic complete soluble plant food, watering the soil before and after adding fertiliser.
TIP Container-grown vegetables and leafy greens need feeding on a fortnightly basis.
Lucerne hay, straw or pea straw are ideal mulches for vegetable beds and pots. Mulch conserves moisture in the soil, keeps the soil cool and helps your vegetables grow steadily.
Vegetables need to be watered regularly to keep them succulent and tasty, which often means daily in the summer. How often you water depends on the weather, but don’t let the soil dry out. Water in the morning at ground level to prevent fungal diseases.