How to Build And Layer A Raised Bed

building a vegetable garden the natural gardening way

1.  Base Form 8″-10″ It helps to surround the garden with some sort of border material. This can be bricks, logs, planks or rocks and can be 20-25cm high (8-10 inches) or more.

2.  Layer of Newspaper 

Begin with a newspaper layer of at least 5 pages — or 20 or so pages if you like (or packing, wrapping paper, cardboard, sacking, natural carpet etc) to at least 5mm (¼ inch) thick. Give it a good soak of water.

If you have those really tenacious, weedy dudes such as onion weed, couch or buffalo grass, docks, convolvulus, thistle, bindweed, ivy and other nasties, definitely put down a strong first layer such as well overlapping cardboard or at least 20 plus layers of newspaper.

3.  Hay 4″ Lay down a layer of pads of lucerne hay (alfalfa) leaving no gaps, to a height of 10cm (4 inches).

5.  Straw 8″ 

6. Fertilizer 1″

7. Compost “

Water the garden until it’s wet but not soaking. You can now start planting your seedlings immediately for an instant garden!

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 What will do well? Beans, peas, capsicum, eggplant, tomato, lettuce, sweet corn, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and vine crops like melons and pumpkins – 

Carrots and other root crops should not be tried until the bed is more mature with decent friable soil, otherwise you will get knobbly, uneven produce.

If you’ve only got a shallow layer of compost or soil on top, poke medium-sized holes through the top layers and put a handful of soil/compost in each hole and plant your seedlings there.

Once your seedlings are in place, cover exposed areas with another layer of mulch such as straw, grass clippings or leaves. To discourage stem rot, try to keep the stems of your young plants clear of the mulch, or at least don’t pack the mulch hard around the stems.

Of course you can start off with seeds, particularly biggies like beans, squash and similar, but especially with preparing soil for a vegetable garden in the first year, the layers are bulky and not merged, so best to wait a good few months.

To sow seeds after building your wonderful creation, push away the mulch, make a shallow trench and add a layer of good soil, sprinkle seeds, then cover with fine soil. Keep the mulch away from seeds and only bring it closer once the seedlings are strong little plants.

Additional tips for planting a vegetable garden

    • Before planting vegetables, work out where any paths or stepping stones should go if you have a large area.
    • Ideally, build your vegetable gardens twice as wide as your arm length. By that, I mean make sure you can reach into the garden to the halfway mark for harvesting, weeding and… ooh what are those holes… de-slugging.
    • Try to avoid walking on your no dig garden. It will compact the layers of organic material and may cause problems later. It may also track undesirable things (weed seeds especially) into the bed.
    • A good idea, if you want to plant out your garden the same day you build it, is to water the layers of materials as you lay them down. The straw layer in particular takes some time as straw does not readily absorb water. Pre-soaking the bales in standing water can also help if it’s an option for you.
  • With a no dig garden, you are quite literally unrestricted to size or shape within your land boundaries. So if you are happily whistling and planting away and find no more room at the inn, dump some new layers down and hey presto, you now have a instant strip of garden to pop those last seedlings in.

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After the first year and a change of seasons, your original layered plot should now be a thriving community, with worms and bugs all actively munching and mixing your layers together. There ARE some challenging gardens built on sand or heavy clay. So actually, truthfully I must admit, it may take some time, like a year or two, before these gardens reach that beautiful deep and rich state… like mine! But keep topping up your gardens as they sink down — the more organic materials you add, the better and deeper you soil condition becomes. At least once a year or each time you re-plant a patch, add some organic material such as compost, grass clippings, leaf mold or suchlike and always mulch around the new plants. The mulch will keep down weeds, retain moisture, keep temperatures even and promote fast, healthy growth. –



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