How to Create a No-Dig Flowerbed for an Easy Start to a Garden

Transform your yard with this easy-to-build, no-till, no-dig flowerbed that you can build on top of your grass for a healthy planting spot.

Put down that shovel! There's an easier way to make a new flowerbed. Like lasagna gardening, a no-dig flowerbed harnesses the natural forces of the weather, plus soil inhabitants such as earthworms, bacteria, and fungi, to transform bare turf into a planting space. No digging, no sweat. After you layer newspaper and compost on top of the turf and wait several months, the grass will decompose into 6-8 inches of topsoil. You can start this process any time of year, but one good strategy is to do so in the fall so the soil can develop over the winter and be ready to plant in late spring or early summer during the growing season.

use shovel to remove grass layer for bin
Brie Passano

Step 1: Outline Your No-Dig Flowerbed

Once you've decided where to build a no-dig flowerbed, mark the plot's perimeter with spray paint or a sprinkling of flour. Removing the top layer of sod can speed up the process of planting a little sooner, but it's unnecessary. Instead, you can start adding your layers right on top of the grass.

pour layer of topsoil on newspaper
Brie Passano

Step 2: Build Your Layers

Spread a layer of newspaper six sheets thick so that the entire outlined space for your no-dig flowerbed is covered. Using a garden hose, saturate the paper to help it break down. This will also help it stay in place as you work. Next, spread 3-6 inches of compost on the paper. If you don't make compost, find a municipal source or substitute commercially available topsoil. Now, just sit back and let nature get to work, breaking down the layers of newspaper and killing any grass and weeds underneath.

If you're letting the bed sit over the summer and you have a long dry spell, you may want to add some water to your layers because moisture will keep the decomposition process going.

fill area inside edging with topsoil
Brie Passano

Step 3: Edge Bed

Add landscape edging around the bed's perimeter to help keep turf grass from invading. Or, if you wish, you can use more decorative materials such as bricks, stones, or landscape timbers to enhance the look of your no-dig flowerbed. If it's a large space, such as a curbside garden between the sidewalk and street, lay out paths before you plant.

Your new bed will need 3-6 months to develop. To check if it's done, use a trowel to dig down to the soil level. If you see any newspaper or turf left, let your plot sit for a few more weeks and check again. Once it's ready for planting, you can install drip irrigation or a soaker hose before you add any flowers. Then you can sow seeds or transplant potted annuals and perennials to create a colorful display where you once had a plain lawn.

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