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All about the no dig method for flowers

All About The No Dig Method For Flowers

The first time when a friend of mine told me about the no dig method for flowers, I was bewildered and I couldn’t speak for a while. I remembered the hard work that I used to do in digging up and plowing my garden space to grow different types of vegetables and flowers. I couldn’t believe that I could ditch all this for a simple method of growing that could give me the same or even better results. Now, let me tell you all about this method, the different tips and tricks, and all you need to know to start your own no-dig garden!

What is the no-dig gardening method?

The theory behind this gardening technique is that when you till the garden, as part of the traditional method of growing, you affect the soil structure and bring up a lot of weed seeds and other organisms onto the surface. While if you keep the soil layers undisturbed, then it is better for the microorganisms and the living creatures as they can make the soil good and fertile for the plants to grow.

What are some rules of no-dig gardening?

If you are trying to adopt the no dig method for flowers, then there are some rules of this method, according to, which you should follow to get the best results.

Rule 1: Don’t disturb the layers of soil as breaking the soil surface can interfere with its physical structure and complex ecology.

Rule 2: Keep the soil planted at all times as it is important for the soil food web which dictates the overall health of the soil. It is good to leave the root mass in the ground when you harvest the crops so it feeds the soil microorganisms. You can also use cover crops to keep the root environment active during the winter.

Rule 3: Keep the soil covered and never leave it exposed as it makes the soil lose its compost to exposure and erosion. Add a thick layer of mulch to any unplanted beds and remove it and reuse it if you don’t find it a suitable growing medium.

What do you need for the no dig gardening method?

If you are thinking about adopting the no dig method for flowers, then you will need the following material

● Lots of newspaper-rolled cardboard, or recycled cardboard

● Hose having a nozzle

● Measuring tape to measure the space and find out how much mulch and compost you will need

● Garden gloves

● Spade shovel

● Mulch

● compost

How to create a no-dig garden for flowers?

Here is the list of steps you need to follow to create a new garden bed with the no dig method for flowers:

1. Measure the area and find out how much material you will need

The first step is to find out how big you need your flower bed to be. Use the measuring tape to measure the length and width of your space. Using these dimensions, you can get an estimate of how much mulch and compost you will need. For instance, if you have a flower bed that is 10 feet long and 10 feet wide, then here are rough estimates of how much material you will need:

● Almost 250 square feet of cardboard

● 0.4 cubic yards of compost

● 0.9 cubic yards of mulch

2. Clear the bed area

Clear the bed area

You should clean the place on which you are going to make the flower bed. Remove any rocks, larger sticks, and other debris from the area, and also remove noxious weeds such as oxalis, Bermuda grass, ivy, blackberry, etc.

Note: This process might take time but it is not so hard. Let’s begin.

3. Make a boundary around the bed

This is the only digging you need for the no dig method for flowers. Use a sharp spade and cut a straight line around the perimeter of your garden bed to be at least 4” deep. Then make a “V” by cutting a diagonal line at least 6” from the perimeter down to the depth of the first pass. This keeps the mulch and soil inside the garden bed and also prevents grass from growing.

4. Pre-plant some bigger shrubs and trees

Before covering the area with cardboard, pre-plant any shrubs and larger trees that are 5 gallons or larger right into the grass. You have to add around 4.5” of organic matter into your bed, so plant these shrubs and trees a bit above the soil level. Make sure to keep the mulch away from the trunks of your trees and shrubs and the base of your plants. To jump-start this whole process, it is good to wet down the whole area with your hose and water any plants you put in.

Sounds Easy? Lets Keep Digging into Details.

5. Lay whatever paper you are using over the flower beds

Now is the time to lay the paper on the garden base. If you are laying recycled cardboard, then a single layer is enough. But since rolled cardboard is much thinner, you should better add two layers. A crosshatch pattern is my favorite, in which I lay the rows horizontally and then do the same in the vertical direction. Remove any plastic or tape from the recycled cardboard and ensure that it is not coated. You can also use uncoated newspaper or heavy cardboard if you are worried about weed pressure.

If you are using cardboard boxes and wondering whether the industrial ink is safe for the plants, then remember that it is soy-based and will not hurt the soil or plants. Always saturate the paper with water to keep them in place and start the decomposition process.

6. Cover the layer of paper with compost

Next, cover the cardboard layer with compost, adding at least a 1.5” thick layer. If the place had a lot of weeds, then you may need to add a bit thicker layer of compost and then saturate it with water.

Cover the layer of paper with compost

Two more Steps and We are There!

7. Add a layer of mulch over the compost

If you have a basic lawn, then spread about a 2-3” layer of mulch, and if there are a lot of weeds, then add a thicker layer. Using coarse mulch for this process is a good option, but you can also use tree trimmer or arborist mulch as they consist of wood chips and leaves and work very well. No matter which mulch you use, saturate the layer with water.

8. Start planting

Now, it’s time to start planting the no dig method for flowers. If you have smaller plants, you can plant them straight into the compost layer and let their roots break into the decomposing paper. But for larger plants, you will need to poke a hole through the cardboard and plant. Add some organic matter in this hole before planting, but it is more likely that you have already planted your bigger plants and shrubs in step 4. 

What are some good flowers to plant by this method?

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’: These hardy perennials grow from June to September and bear violet to lilac-blue flowers that die back in the fall, coming back in the spring again.

no dig method for flowers

Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle): The soft-velvety fan-shaped leaves of this plant are mesmerising. Also, it makes them one of the prettiest no-dig garden plants.

Mexican Fleabane: This plant produces white daisies from April to November that shift to pink.

no dig method for flowers

Salvia ‘Mainacht’: This hardy perennial produces spikes of indigo-blue flowers in early summer to the middle of the season.

Geranium ‘Album’: You can plant these at the front of the bed to soften the edges. Also, with their bright white saucer-shaped flowers it will look great.

If you feel worried about your orchid leaves turning white, then read: Solved: The mysteries behind orchid leaves turning white.

Frequently  Asked Questions

Is there any similar method to no dig method for flowers?

You can use the sheet mulching method instead of the no-dig method. In this method, you need to spread cardboard or newspaper on the garden area and top it with landscape mulch. You should remove the weeds. If you won’t be able to give them time to die out and decay beneath the new layer of sheet mulch.

Are there any disadvantages of no-dig gardening?

Firstly, you need a large amount of compost and it may not be affordable to get good quality compost for an entire plot, particularly the first time you are starting as the start needs a bit more than usual.

Secondly, you need to shovel or wheelbarrow the compost a lot from time to time.

Does the newspaper work well for no-dig gardening?

You can use torn-up newspaper to break down into the soil. If you are creating a no dig garden onto grass, you need two things. Such as first let lime and a layer of manure break down the grass. Then, and add a layer of newspaper on top.

Is it good to plant directly into a no-dig garden?

If you are extremely excited to start gardening with a no dig method for flowers, then first use a potting mix to make the seeds and seedlings start growing. Create small planting pockets, fill them with potting mix. Then sprinkle with a little bone, blood, and rock minerals, and plant the seeds and water immediately. You can grow most vegetables and herbs by this method.

For More Details

Why is no dig method for flowers better than the traditional methods of gardening?

If you dig your soil then it can break up the fungal threads in the soil. Therefore, your plants cannot get the benefits of these helpful organisms. No dig gardening method preserves the overall structure of the soil. Also, it allows the natural tie between organisms to flourish and leads to improved plant growth.

For no-dig gardening, how much compost do I need?

If your gardening place is growing weeds, you will need little compost. For flowers or vegetables’ immediate growth, 10-15 cm/4-6 in compost will be good for you.  But if there are no weeds in the ground, then use as less as 5cm/2 in compost for the start.

How long will it take to grow by no dig method?

All you have to do is to wait for the weeds to die down. The soil organisms will start their work. It can take at least 6 months or up to a year for the weeds to weaken. So, this time is for particularly the deep and extensive rooted weeds like dock, bramble, and bindweed.

Wrapping Up

No dig method for flowers is one of the easiest gardening methods. In fact, that requires the least labor and grows beautiful flowers. You don’t need to remove the grass, till up the soil and then till in the compost. Finally, you will have tons of weeds growing. I used to find this process very frustrating. In fact, instead of enjoying gardening, I used to think of it as hard work that didn’t always prove fruitful. But now, I throw newspapers all over the soil and start new flower beds without much effort.