Fri 19th, Apr, 2013

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Morning lovely Beach Cottage people, hope you are well, today I’m doing a bit of backyard farming with a no-dig garden / raised bed and lots of veggie and herb planting here in Beach Cottage Land.


We are having lovely lovely weather here… just right for getting out in the garden, the heat of the Summer is gone and it’s safe to go outside without being scorched by the sun…


Temps in the mid 20s, beautiful sunny, warm perfect Autumnal days…good for planting no-dig raised bed gardens!

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…the best weather in Sydney that I can remember for quite a long time…


Winter still seems quite far off in terms of the temps and the feel of the days, though I am sure within two weeks of its arrival and after the initial honeymoon period involving luxuriating in hot chocolate, woolly socks with pom-poms, winter pj’s and crocheted beanies I will be moaning for England that it is sooooo cold, which we all know very well that in Sydney it so is not.

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So anyway this is my first no-dig garden as such and so far so good.


It all started the other weekend when I was thinking about planting up some more veggies and digging another bed from the lawn…


I am more and more drawn to growing my own stuff


…and the veggie beds that I planted last year, which were a spectacular failure in all sense of the word in terms of the vegetables (I do not count a harvest of red hot chilli peppers that no-one apart from me can eat as successful), but extremely good in terms of the herbs (go figure) had no more room in them for anything much….


The so-called veggie patch is full of herbs mixed in with random things such as some white flowers that I planted from a cutting which have now gone crazy, a French Lavender who is doing the same, various Rosemary bushes enjoying their life out on the beaches and providing our chicken with good flavour, and, a smattering of other hastily planted things shoved in the ground with hope and a prayer – like the sunflower seeds I pulled from my first Summer sunflowers, and are now, in the middle of Autumn nodding their bright and pretty heads all over the garden in the morning when I hang out the laundry

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…so with not much space for much else in there and while spending the whole of Good Friday afternoon in bed with my iPad researching what to plant that is fail-proof for a new-to-Sydney-gardener-with-sandy-soil-and-a-hot-spot-back-yard-together-with-a-coastal-breeze and fuelled on by copious cups of tea and chocolate Hob Nobs I decided that a no-dig garden may be the way to go.


After a little bit of surfing I decided that good old Frank (as in Spencer) who at the time was watching English soccer in another room may well be able to turn his hand at building a no-dig garden bed….my internet sleuthing, you see, had led me to those lovely people at Google and asking their advice on how to do this no-dig backyard farming thing on a budget…


it really does not take one to be a rocket scientist to work out that the making of a square box without a base for a no-dig garden does not need $100 thrown at it from the DIY store offering kits to make your own ‘easy raised beds’….nup we would go this alone and continue our ethos of up-cycling and make this from stuff we already had…so from my warm, layered and white bed with iPad I planned and schemed how Mr BC could make this thing…


We had old wood, we had tools, we had Frank and we had enthusiasm…and he was up for the challenge…


The bed was simply made from old skirting boards batted together into a rectangle

The layers of the no dig garden are below – I read a lot on the layers and how to do them, there may have been some serious deliberating and much debate over this in Beach Cottage Land – and then I came across a back-yard farming website that said it really doesn’t matter how you go and how you do it – green light to just get going on it for me

I layered it up like this

1. smashed up rocks for drainage (if on concrete like mine is, ugly concrete at that)

2. newspaper

3. layer of hay

4. layer of manure (I used cow manure because it smells so attractive for the neighbours)

5. layer of compost

6. layer of fertiliser

7. layer of straw

8. layer of potting mix


So far, so good and I am already seeing really good results, I am presuming that is from the goodness of the soil – I am just waiting to see now what happens with various other problems which might arise in the form of pesky little critters and insects that believe they may also like to get their grubby little mitts on my vegetables…

Oh and I painted the plant pots with white paint because well, you know I thought there was a distinct lack of white in my life Winking smile

Do you have any tips and tricks for growing veggies??  Have you had much success or experience with no-dig / raised bed gardens?

Be seeing you



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  1. Kim H says:

    Love the whole no dig thing. I’ve had lots of success with no dig. I did lots of my flower beds that way too in my last house and I was only just chatting this morning with a horticultural friend {I was complaining about the hardness of my soil at the moment) and she said that you can even plant trees like that – above the ground, mounded up with poo and compost and straw. Sounds like a plan to me. I’ve got about 30 trees to plant over autumn! Happy autumn gardening. It so is the best time of year, don’t you think? xx

    • sarah says:

      wow that’s a lot of trees…I will be using the no-dig garden on some concrete areas that I was at a loss with what to do…now I will be putting these beds on them (only higher) and putting shrubs and flowers in if not veggies :-)

  2. Oooohh I love this idea! We may have the room for huge veggie patches here but that can be a tad daunting…these seem much more do-able. Now where’s that husb of mine………. xx ps… Have to add the obvious…beeeeautiful pics x

    • sarah says:

      I know what you mean – we have quite a bit of room here to dig veggie beds but I felt the same – being able to contain the soil is really good because you can control it and also, for this garden, with the sand and the heat it means that the water actually goes to the plants rather than runs off and goes elsewhere… xx

  3. Alice says:

    I love you Sarah…. You just solved my problem! Only I will be planting hydrangeas hehehe… Hubby (and me included) will be happier that he doesn’t have to dig more holes! We have plenty of scrap timber… My only concern will be the darn dog… It is near her digging spot unfortunately I can’t train her to dig in the “right” places not through lack of trying… She only seems interested in those “right” spots once all the planting is done… I had to “cage” my French /English lavender plants with chicken wire after she nearly destroyed them last winter… She was literally “nesting“in them! The frustration!

  4. Rowen says:

    Sounds good for a woman with an eleven months old Dalmatian who has wrecked just about everything else in my garden! Think my box would have to be wall mounted though to keep it out of the way of said Dalmatian. I can sympathise wholeheartedly with Alison. Rowen@Coastal Colours x

  5. alison says:

    I had fun doing a no dig garden a few years ago. I just put all the layers down on a flat part of our yard that had full sun. I didn’t have any frame around it. I look forward to watching yours grow.


  6. Vanessa says:

    So inspiring, Sarah. I’ve tried for so long to grow anything really in my patio, but it gets way to sunny in there, the poor little things can’t not make it the heat.
    Love the white pots, just beautiful. Everything looks pretty!

  7. Julie says:

    Sarah I have made my first ever foray into no dig beds and veggies and the results are astounding. I bought some cheap corrugated sheet metal beds from the reject shop earlier this year. I layered them up and left them to “cook” for a few weeks and then planted them out the week before Easter. In only 4 weeks I now have lettuce, spinach and rocket ready to harvest. I swear you could see them growing if you stood there watching! The broccoli has grown 40cms – it is like Jack’s beanstalk. Good luck with your veggies – I’m sure you will soon be harvesting lots of goodies from your no dig patch.

  8. Kate (Oxford uk) says:

    Hi Sarah, it all looks so good! its been so cold here we are only just seeing the first signs of the Spring so we’re way behind with the garden. I always paint my terracotta pots, mostly pink and purple (but that’s a me thing), it peels off in the second year and then looks lovely and rustic rather than messy – beats forking out for expensive glazed pots or posh ceramics.

    Happy gardening!
    Kate x

  9. ChrisC says:

    In my sandy,Florida soil I use raised beds all the time.Here,in Florida,we have to use compost,compost,compost.Did I say compost? LOTS of compost.A well tended compost pile is a lovely,necessary thing,here in Florida.

  10. Hi Sarah-
    We did the same- took a sun trapped corner of our garden…removed an old kids cubby…put in raised beds using sleepers and threw all the soil, compost etc we could find in…it fed the five of us all last Summer!
    It also looks cool in the garden from my kitchen window….
    We have rabbits in our yard, as we live in a culda sac with quite a few Italian gardens of veges and the like, so we put a little chicken wire fence around it and a little upcycled french looking gate…I am in heaven!
    Gorgeous photos as usual Sarah…DIVINE!
    A tip from my Italian neighbours with veges is: water for a long period every second day- apparently if you water a little each day the roots don’t grow deep into the soil- as they need to be near the surface to get water!
    Looking forward to seeing more photos….
    PS- Passionate fruit vine is divine to look at- all curly and the flowers beautiful and makes a lovely cover over something like the wall of your Summer House- it loves hot gardens like I think yours is and the fruit abundant after a year!
    Melissa x

    • Dimity says:

      this sounds lovely Melissa, I’m off to look at your blog now in the hope that you have pictures!

  11. Rukmini Roy says:

    Love what you are doing Sarah… I’ve been wanting to have a kitchen garden myself but after a tedious job, I am who needs some care and water. Im kinda intrigued about the flower pots that look like papermache… Are they to be put inside the regular pots for better health of the plant? or they are designer flower-pots? Would love if you tell me.
    Grabbing the husband and making him take me to the plant mall!

    • Dimity says:

      Hi Rukmin, i can answer that for you! They are biodegradeable seedling pots! You grow your seeds in them, and then when they are seedlings you can plant them straight into the dirt. They are supposed to minimise translapant shock. My mum got me some for christmas. I think you can get them at most nurseries or hardware stores.Hope this helps!

    • sarah says:

      sorry missed this – they are little bio-degradable pots and I hope better for the environment

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hey Sarah
    I have been doing no dig veg gardens for years and the produce is divine. Straight from the garden to the plate ahhhhhhhhhhh. I do a bit of companion planting to help with the pests and also a home made garlic spray. I have my gardens netted to keep the lovely birds from enjoying an easy lunch. If you do need to net, here is my easy method. Grab yourself some round timber stakes, black poly pipe. Jamb those stakes in the ground opposite each other and then put poly pipe over from one stake to the other to form an arch. I have 3 of these per garden and then just put netting over the top. It also keeps the dogs off the garden.
    Enjoy your garden and your yummy produce.

    • sarah says:

      thanks Nel, could you let me know what poly pipe is please? I think I am going to need to net these :-)

      • Narelle Schultz says:

        Hi Sarah
        Go to Bunnings and ask for black poly pipe (it is used for drainage and for watering systems, just make sure you get one that is about 2cm across opening, this gives the rigid form you need to hold the netting), it is quite cheap about $20 for 20 metre roll. I use thin metal garden stakes about metre or so in length, Bunnings also have these in garden section they are green plastic covered and sell in a pack of 6 or so. Hammer the metal stakes in the ground and then run the poly pipe over the top in an arc to the height you desire. I do them about 1.5 to 2 mtrs high to allow for the netting to go right over the top and you can work under the netting to fertilise, pick veg and replant. Hope this helps.

        • sarah says:

          thanks, sorry I missed this and just suddenly remembered it after checking on my veggies, I will try this, sounds easy (I think!)

  13. Selby says:

    Loving no dig!:) Our beans & pumpkin were no dig this year. It seems to help with the frosts we get here as its raised & the no dig helped with my rubbish sore back as it was much easier & lighter to manage when putting in. Love me a good lasagne bed as they call it on gardening Australia!

  14. sunny says:

    Hi Sarah..I live in the US so I admit I know nothing about gowing vegetables in AU..however I grew up with a dad who was an amazing gardener and one thing I learned is that vegetables [not herbs!] need a long growing season, long sunny days, and warm ground…so I am always confused about why you are planting your veggies in April? I looked up ”growing tomatoes in Sydney AU” on line and the sites seemed to say that, for example, tomatoes should be started in Aug and set out in November? Maybe you need to adjust your timing? But you should do okay with lettuces and herbs right now…Of course this may be very incorrect, so in tthat case, apologies for butting in,lol.


    • sarah says:

      no probs! the climate here is suitable to growing a lot of veggies year round – the veggies I have planted are all good for planting at this time of year in Sydney as it doesn’t get too cold but cold enough for some things – salads are all year round as are some other veggies, hope that makes sense