Sustaining our environment

What is a no-dig garden?

This type of garden uses layers of newspaper, compost, straw, lucerne hay and manure above the ground as a bed for plants rather than planting them in the soil.

The advantages of a no-dig garden are:

  • You can make one over concrete or poor soil.
  • It reduces waste by using your old newspapers.
  • It's a great way to use your compost.

image: a no dig garden


How to make a no-dig garden

STEP 1. Choose the site

Select a sunny spot.

STEP 2. Start the layers

Put down the following layers:

  1. First put down a thick layer (1.5 cm) of loose, overlapping newspapers and soak it with a hose. If your garden base is rock or hard clay, put down a 5-7 cm layer of old leaves, small sticks or pieces of seaweed first and then cover with newspaper. If you choose, you can make a border with old timber.
  2. Then put down a layer of lucerne about the same thickness. Then soak with a hose.
  3. Sprinkle a thin layer of organic fertiliser like blood and bone, dry poultry manure or compost over the lucerne.
  4. Add a layer of loose straw about the thickness of your hand length.
  5. Sprinkle a little more fertiliser over it.
  6. Make a small mound of compost on top of the layers for each  plant.

STEP 3. Plant

Plant seedlings - one to each compost pile.

STEP 4. Water

Water the finished garden well, then water each day for the first week. In time the hay, straw and paper will break down into a dark, fluffy, light compost soil.

Other uses for your garden waste

You can create a healthy garden and save money by using your garden waste to make other things apart from compost.


Mulches are made from organic materials such as woodchips, lawn clippings, compost, sawdust, leaves, pine needles, shredded paper and underfelt. You can also mulch with coffee grounds, grain hulls, nut shells and straw.

Mulch can be spread over the top of soil to prevent weeds, keep plant roots cool and moist and stop the soil eroding or compacting. Mulches are used around plants in the garden or as a soft paving for paths and play areas.

Liquid Fertiliser

You can save money and reduce waste by making your own liquid fertiliser, using weeds and herbs from the garden. Liquid fertiliser smells terrible but it's great for your garden!

Here's how to make it:

STEP 1. Collect

Collect a mixture of: seaweed; herbs like comfrey, yarrow, chamomile and valerian; stinging nettles; the leaves of weeds; finished compost; and chicken or cow manure.

STEP 2. Get a container

Get a container with a tight-fitting lid such as a bucket or garbage bin.

STEP 3: Fill

Fill one-third of the container with a mix of the above ingredients, then fill with water.

STEP 4: Strain

Strain the liquid out after 4–6 weeks and add some water to it until it looks like weak tea. Now the liquid fertiliser is ready to use on your garden.

The solid materials can be put into your compost.

Was this page helpful?

Thank you for your feedback.

Would you like to tell us more?

Page last updated: 01 April 2014