The No Dig Garden Box
I have decided to pour on the coals. I am taking my own advice. I say “If you don’t have a food garden make one, and if you already have a garden add a little more growing space and create some surplus.”.
I am adding a few new beds for this growing season which is NOW! Here in South Florida it is time, and past time to plant. We begin planting in late August or September and we will keep planting through April. By the time June comes we have to start focusing on tropical fruits and heat tolerant vegetables like okra and black eye peas and peanuts. Now and all winter we will grow almost every vegetable that our northern sisters and brothers grew all summer.
I chose the no dig style of gardens for my new gardens so that I could get my extra planting started right away. The no dig garden box is a quick and easy way to get an excellent outdoor garden started right away. You don’t dig this garden you simply build it up. This No Dig Garden is often called a Lasagna Garden. It is built up in layers.
My first new bed is 6 feet long by 3 feet wide by 10 inches high bottomless box and made from 1×10 boards. I put 2×4 stakes in the corners and screwed the wide boards to the 2×4 stakes. All of the 2×4’s are the ends cut off of trusses at the truss factory (trusses are for roofing). They leave them out at the dumpster for anyone who wants them. They are pretty dense pine, and free! I also drove stakes into the ground at the center point of the longest sides outside of the boxes for more bracing. Soil is heavy and puts a lot of pressure on the boards. I will put my recipe for box filling at the end of this article. Check it out, you will love the simplicity of this no dig garden box.
I have oriented this box so that the long sides face east and west. I am planting beans on the west facing side, and I made a sisal net between two posts for them to climb on. East of them and on the east facing side I have planted lettuces and arugula. I hope the beans will provide some shade against the western exposure while it is still pretty hot here. It is just the first days of October. The sun only recently crossed the equator, and keep in mind we are very close to the equator, so it needs to cruise farther south before we will get daytime temps below 85, and lower humidity.
One of the lettuce varieties and the arugula I planted came from seeds I collected from my garden last season. I am glad to see that they have come up. I planted on the new moon which was coincidentally a rainy day. I barely made it inside before the drizzle in which I worked became a downpour. You can’t ask for a better day to plant seeds or transplants. The beans I planted are the yard long green beans. My neighbors grew them last winter. I was tending to their fallow beds while they were away this summer. I found that a volunteer bean plant growing on the fence outside of the garden made a pair of beans which had dried themselves on the plant. I took those beans and manured the plant and got two more beans (out of season by the way). I planted eight of the seeds from inside of the beans. I am really pleased that they have begun to break the soil just 3 days after planting. I also planted parsley seeds, and I put in a basil plant and a cilantro plant my friend Diane gave me as well as two volunteer marigolds from the neighbor’s grass outside their garden bed. Yesterday I laid in four eggplant seeds in the last unplanted part of that box. All the space is planted out now.
Here is the Lasagna recipe:
The box should be narrow enough that you will be able to tend the bed without stepping into it. If you have access to both sides most of us can deal with a bed 4 feet wide. You can decide which lumber lengths to use for the box, only remember the soil is heavy you are going to have to put stakes in the ground every 3 feet or so to brace the bed against bulging. If you make a 6′ long box I think it is sufficient to stake the inside corners and screw the box to those stakes, (My stakes are 2×4’s but you might get away with using 2×2’s.) and put one more in the center on each side outside of the box. I am using regular pine lumber that is untreated. I know this means the boxes will have a short life, but I don’t want the treating chemicals from pressure treated lumber leaching into my soil.
Once the box is built, before you stake it to the ground make sure it is sitting level or very close to it. Use newspaper, or straw to stuff lifted areas between the ground and the box.
Be sure to wet each layer as you put it in.
The first layer is about 1/4 inch of newspaper or cardboard.
The second layer is about 4 inches of alfalfa or lucerne hay.
The third layer is about 1 inch of aging manure.
The fourth layer is about 4 inches of straw.
The fifth layer is another 1 inch of aging manure.
The last layer is compost, or garden soil, or composted manure. You will probably have space for 2 or 3 inches of that. If you are using store bought bags of composted cow manure go ahead and mix in a little peat moss with that. Just a few shovels full is enough. Put your seeds or transplants into that, water well and watch!
Although the recipe for the filing remains the same, see what changes in this no dig garden box in The No Dig Garden Prototype 2.