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.


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 18,473
    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?
  • WillDBWillDB Posts: 1,965
    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: 18,473
    Have a look at soil for crop rotations.  If you're making at least 4 beds you can do a classic rotation - eg - 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: 2,440

    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: 2,094
    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:-)
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