Building a Flowerbed Without Digging

Transform your yard with this easy-to-build, no-till garden bed.


Enlarge Image You can create a flowerbed like this one without busting your back.

One of the easiest ways to make a new garden bed harnesses the natural forces of the sun, weather, and earthworms to transform bare turf into rich, plantable earth. Once you layer cardboard, newsprint, and compost on top of the turf, and wait several months, the turf decomposes into 6 to 8 inches of topsoil. Build the bed at the beginning of one season and it should be ready for planting by the next season. For example, pile up the layers in early spring; the ground will be plantable by summer. No digging; no sweat.

See below for complete step-by-step instructions.

1. Once you've decided where to build a new garden bed, mark the plot's perimeter using stones or bricks. Spread corrugated cardboard on top of the lawn. Saturate it, using a garden hose. On top of the cardboard, spread a layer of newspaper, 6 sheets thick.

2. Spread a 3- to 6-inch layer of compost on top of the paper. If you don't make your own compost, find a municipal source, or substitute half commercial topsoil or potting soil and half composted manure. Now let the weather and earthworms do the work, decomposing the layers.

3. An ideal planting bed awaits you after several months. Now's the best time to install drip irrigation or a soaker hose, before you plant. Edge the bed, if you wish, with decorative materials such as bricks, stones, or landscape timbers. If the bed is large, such as a boulevard garden between sidewalk and street, lay out paths before you plant.

Cover crops are a great way to improve your soil. Click here to learn more about them.

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