Garden Advice

No-Dig Gardening – Less Work For a Healthier Garden

It’s early autumn. A shudder goes through you as you look at your shovel and pitchfork. It’s time. Your garden needs a turnover before you sow next spring’s seeds. But, does your garden actually need a turnover, or are you doing more harm than good? 

That’s where no-dig gardening comes in. In this simple guide, we’ll go over the basics of what it is and how to create a no-dig garden. 

So, if you:

  • Like gardening but aren’t too fond of the digging part;
  • Have heard of no-dig gardening and want to give it a shot;
  • Are wondering what the benefits of the no-dig method are,

Then keep on reading! This post is for you.

What is no-dig gardening?

The no-dig gardening method leaves your soil completely undisturbed. No cultivating your soil. No tilling, troughing or plowing it either. Now, this may seem mad, especially if you do this chore every autumn. But in some cases, regularly digging around your garden may be doing more harm than good.

Soil is a complex ecosystem of microbes and creepy crawlies. They constantly cycle nutrients and improve the structure of the soil. For all the good that digging can do, it can also destroy that natural ecosystem. This, in turn, allows all this nutrient-rich, structurally sound soil to be exposed to the sun and dry out.

Of course, some types of soil don’t do too well if left to their own devices. Depending on your circumstances, digging and extra improvements might be inevitable. But if the soil is doing just fine on its own, then leave the shovel in your shed, your garden will love you for it.

Advantages of no-dig gardening

There is a whole host of reasons why the no-dig method is beneficial not just to your garden, but to you as well!

  • Less work – One less chore to deal with. For those with muscular problems or arthritis, you will be able to garden with relative ease! 
  • Preserves soil structure – Good soil structure means better water and air flow, keeping your plants healthier. 
  • Less weeding – Turning over soil exposes weed seeds to the sun, allowing them to germinate. Don’t help them if you don’t need to! 
  • Soil erosion no more – Water and wind will start to erode the top layer of soil in normal gardens. Not in no-dig gardens, however, as natural drainage and aeration are promoted with this method. 

How to start a no-dig garden

With all of the advantages being so clear, learning how to start a no-dig garden yourself is a no-brainer! Luckily, it’s not very complicated and you can begin in almost any location. 

What you’ll need

Depending on the base you are starting on (whether raised beds or concrete), you’ll need different materials. Generally speaking, you will need: 

  • Newspaper or cardboard
  • Animal manure
  • Compost
  • Kitchen scraps and other materials can also be useful for composting
  • Sticks, twigs, leaves, straw – Useful for bases, especially when placing on grass or concrete

Location – where to begin? 

You want to start in a spot that is going to get as much sun as possible. Anywhere around the five-hour range should be perfect. This can be on a raised bed of soil, on grass, or even concrete. 

The groundwork – prepare the area

If you’re placing your no-dig patch on soil or an already raised bed, lucky you, you can skip this step. However, if you’re starting on concrete, put down a layer of sticks and leaves to help with drainage. Then, place either newspaper or cardboard down on top.

If you’re starting on grass, you’ll need to mow it as low as you can and then place layers of cardboard or newspaper down. Like with concrete, you can also add sticks and leaves as a bottom layer.

Straw, manure & compost

Here’s where things get messy. After preparing your area, you’ll want to start layering straw, manure, and compost upon each other. 

Starting with straw, you’ll want to lay a bed which is relatively thick (around 4 inches) and then water. Add some manure and/or compost on top and water this in. Keep repeating the process, until you have a bed deep enough for you to plant in. If it’s 15 inches or above, you’re at the sweet spot. Just remember to water in every layer and you should be fine. 

Start planting!

Forget the rumours, you can plant seeds in your compost layer and it won’t affect the health of your plants at all. And you can start sowing immediately. Plant your seeds and water them as you normally would. 

Moving forward, all you need to do is add a new top layer of compost once or twice a year. No need to pick up a shovel or trough though, the no-dig plots will be able to handle new crops as soon as a new season starts! 

Putting mulch on the top layer of compost also helps. Mulch is an organic material, such as decomposed bark, leaves, or compost, and it helps enrich and insulate the soil. 

Need a hand taking care of your garden?

Your workload has already decreased now that we’ve got rid of that pesky digging, but we can decrease it even more!  

The expert gardeners we work with will be more than happy to help take care of your green space. From lawn mowing to tree surgery and general garden maintenance, rest assured your plants are in the right hands! 

Spend your free time on the things you love – the experts will take care of the rest! 

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Find a garden specialist to handle the hard work.

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  • No-dig gardening is a method that leaves the soil entirely undisturbed.
  • Often, healthy soil that has no need for improvement will benefit from the no-dig method, as eliminating digging will keep the natural ecosystem intact.
  • No-dig gardening is a good choice for people with limited mobility.
  • Choose a sunny spot for your no-dig garden plot.
  • Once you set up your plot, just add a new layer of compost once or twice a year.


We hope you found our no-dig gardening guide helpful. If you have any questions, or maybe a tip or two of your own, share them with us in the comments! 

Image source: Shutterstock / Jen Watson

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