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New house, new garden

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New house, new garden

So, I am in my new house in Ballarat (zoom in!), a reasonable sized city of 88,000ish people an hour or so west of Melbourne. The move was gruelling, not least because of the garden, but it's all done now and the keys to the old place handed back.

Now my challenge is to get the veggie garden at the new place up and running really quickly as it's already December and things need to be in the ground. Not to mention that all the seeds I planted back in July-August-September, planning to use them at the old house, are now fully grown plants in pots and many of them are pretty seriously root-bound.

So, the plan is to turn a biggish chunk of the backyard into a no-dig garden, using my moving boxes as the bottom layer. This seemed like the quickest way to get things going. I took some photos so I thought I'd do a quick tour and show you how I did the no-dig thing.

This is the front yard:

Front yard

Nothing much to show yet, but I'm hoping to transplant my rosemary along the fence there, and plant some lavender and nasturtiums and warrigal greens to sprawl across what's currently grass. Next year I'd like to put a small pomegranate tree in the part of the garden that's in the foreground of this photo.

And here's the backyard:

Back yard

I want everything between the photographer and the clothesline to be veggie patch, and beyond that to have some fruit trees and chickens. Well, there are already some fruit trees right up the back, actually (an apple and a damson plum) but I'd like to add a few more: lemon, fig, and loquat are top of my list.

So, the plan is to make both sides of the photo above into veg patch, but for now it'll just be the left hand side. That's enough to fit all the plants I brought from Thornbury and then some. On the other side, and up toward the compost bins, I'm planning to dot little mounds and grow squash of various kinds, but I don't need to make a full garden bed for that.

So here's how I did the first section of no-dig garden.

Step 1: boxes!


I removed all the tape, tore them open, flattened them, and laid them so that they overlapped a bit. The goal is to provide layer that's impermeable to light, and will kill the grass underneath.

Step 2: pea straw. It comes off the bales in these sort of rectangular sheets, which you can just tile across the garden quite easily.


Step 3: I added some stepping stones from a pile of rubble up behind the shed, and started sprinkling sheep manure around. Sheep manure is not very high in nitrogen and doesn't really need to rot down the way chicken manure, for instance, does. It won't "burn" your plants in the same way. I'm pretty happy to put it straight into the garden, and though ideally I'd like to let it sit and settle for a couple of weeks, in this case I just left it a few days and it seems to be fine.

stepping stones and manure

Step 4: I added more layers of straw and manure. For subsequent straw layers, I broke up the rectangular sheets from the bale and sort of fluffed them up and sprinkled them around, then sprinkled manure, and then more straw. I continued this way until the pile was about 30cm/1 foot deep.

more layers

At each stage, by the way, I watered it thoroughly. Then at the end I watered it some more. I also gave it a sprinkle of seaweed emulsion. And then finally I left it to sit for a few days, intermittently watering it or letting it get rained on. During this time it "settled" a little, the piles becoming less mountainous and the texture becoming more solid. Later, I planted some stuff in it, but I didn't take photos. I'll do so when I plant the next lot in the second section I've built up :)


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Posted by Sharonsugah on January 15, 2014 at 18:48

I'm soooo interested in this idea of a "no dig" garden!! Have done this method before? I live in the US, north central Texas to be exact, our soil isn't known for being the most dig-friendly type...lots of clay. Also, was wondering if this method would work on other vegetation - we have a section of flower bed which I would love to turn into a veggie bed but the people before us had a Trumpet vine in it, I'm convinced it is kin to satan himself! I've found NOTHING will deter it from growing, even if it has to change directions & tunnel under the foundation of our home!!! But back to my orig questions, I'd love to know of your past gardens & the cost involved in this "no dig" garden! Thanks in advance!!!

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Posted by dedide on September 01, 2014 at 06:57

Hi Alex, dedide from Ballarat Community Garden here. Re the straw comes off the bales in these sort of rectangular sheets - these are called biscuits :) Good luck with the garden.