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no dig raised bed

Can anyone explain the best construction for a no dig raised bed please.  I've done some research online but there are so many variables so would be interested to know what has been successful for people.  Many thanks.
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  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,572
    First you have to decide on height.  Is it to have a border which will just contain the soil or does it need raising to knee level for easy access if you have a disability or just want to be ale to sit on the egde?

    Secondly width - The usual width is 4'/120cms so you can reach into the middle form both sides without ever treading on the soil.   

    Length - long enough to grow a decent crop but not so long you find yourself trying to step across rather than go round.

    Distances - enough space to get round all sides with a wheelbarrow and, if you have grass paths, a lawnmower.

    Features - enough supporting vertical posts so that when you are forking out potatoes, for example, the side planks are held tight.   Make corner posts high enough to stick out above the retaining boards and act as hosepipe guides so it doesn't swipe your crops flat when you're moving it.   Regular spacing of thinner uprights such as dowels or canes on which you can instal tubing to hold up nets to protect against butterflies/carrot fly/pigeons and, in winter, fleece or plastic sheeting to protect winter crops form severe weather and/or warm up teh soil for early sowings and plantings.  
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thank you very much Obelixx.  That information is very helpful.  Regarding filling the bed with growing medium I am considering beginning with soaked cardboard and then adding a thick layer of horse manure and topping that with my own garden compost and any used compost I have (which is quite a lot) to add to it.  I have read about adding a thin layer of partly dried grass cuttings and maybe wilted stinging nettle leaves, but I wonder if it would be better to keep those for the compost bin.  What would you advise?
  • LoxleyLoxley NottinghamPosts: 4,976
    I would go with a mix of topsoil and compost, about 2:1, and work your horse manure into the surface rather than at the bottom. It depends what you want to grow. 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,572
    Have a look at soil for crop rotations.  If you're making at least 4 beds you can do a classic rotation - eg https://www.simplyseed.co.uk/blog/the-basics-of-crop-rotation.html - so, depending on which bed is growing what you'd want the manure at the base where the roots of he crops find it evenyually or else at the top of the soil so they can benefit straightaway.   
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,531


    Brightboys, there is no "best" construction: the reason there is so much different advice out there is because gardeners have such different requirements and our gardens have such different spaces.  And, of course, we have different sized budgets!  As you can see, a large part of my garden has been concreted over by a previous occupant.  I wanted more growing space, and I thought building raised beds on the concrete would be easier than breaking it up.  There are two more beds like the one in the picture, out of frame to the right.

    The builders' merchant was very helpful (Richard Williams of Llandudno Junction), cut the wood to the size I wanted and delivered it onto my drive.  As well as the blocks you can see, there are vertical square-section wooden pegs inside the corners.  The construction was dead easy, all I had to do was drill holes in the pegs, and drive weatherproof screws through the holes into the blocks.  All my own work, and if a little old lady like me can do it, you can.  Building the three took about 6 - 8 hours as I recall, and cost just under £200.

    I broke up the concrete in one of them, then had second thoughts, because my non-gardening neighbour has uncontrolled bindweed and it can travel underground.  I thought if the bindweed comes up through the raised bed, I'll never get rid of it, so I left the concrete intact in the other two.  It doesn't seem to make any difference, the veg grows just the same in all three.

  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 5,837
    The no dig guru Charles Dowding advocates only using a frame for one or two seasons at the most he then removes the frame and has the bed as a low mound. Fewer hiding places for bugs & pests such as slugs ,snails, ants, woodlice etc.
    AB Still learning

  • Many thanks everyone for your helpful contributions:-)
  • Because of advancing years I trying to convert my allotment to no dig raised beds. However, my problem is where is all the compost that we are advised to pile onto the beds to come from? I have a small garden which I am trying to turn in to a small wild flower meadow (much to my wife's disgust because she thinks it is untidy) so I have a limited amount of grass cuttings to compost, my crop residues don't cover the ground they were grown on and I have little compostable green kitchen waste. It is a mystery to me where the advocates of no dig get all their compost from.

     Last year I was advised to cover, in the autumn, my beds with flattened cardboard boxes which supposedly rot down in the winter and the worms incorporate them in the soil. Despite living in a high rainfall area after six months the cardboard was still intact and a ideal harbourage for slugs and other pests. I have tried sowing green manure like Phacelia in the autumn but germination is poor and sporadic, the few plants that grow do not survive the winter. So what do I do? buy in compost?


  • Jude27Jude27 Posts: 10
    @jandjwoods1610 I have a small garden - about 3mx10 growing area. As a single household I do manage to create just enough compost for my needs, from kitchen waste, most household paper, cardboard, green garden waste, sawdust, leaves etc. I have got in a dumpy bag of manure or two - but that was more to create new beds and put in a lot of roses. I am trying to generate my own compost rather than buying in, so I can reduce plastic and be more self-sustainable.

    In the spring/summer I am on a three to four month cycle so I can get enough for spring and autumn mulching. Having a fast enough break-down cycle is important if I want to have enough mulch because I have so little space for the bins.
  • Papi JoPapi Jo Brittany, France Posts: 3,706
    Last year I was advised to cover, in the autumn, my beds with flattened cardboard boxes which supposedly rot down in the winter and the worms incorporate them in the soil. Despite living in a high rainfall area after six months the cardboard was still intact and a ideal harbourage for slugs and other pests.
    I'm surprised it didn't work for you. I've done the "lasagna" thing twice to gain space for my mixed borders over the lawn, and it's always worked exactly as expected. You say you used "cardboard boxes", I suppose you mean cardboard from dismantled boxes, you didn't just placed the whole boxes on the ground, did you? You must do this in layers ("lasagnas") of cardboard, compost, dead leaves, dirt, etc.

    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
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