This Weekend Project post is about how to create a new planting area, or garden bed, without digging. Yes, turning the soil over and adding amendments such as compost or composted manure is a good way to start a new garden. That method not only works in the amendments but also loosens soil so that the roots of newly placed plants can grow into the ground quickly. But not all gardens need to be planted in this way. Some gardeners aren’t able to Rototill or dig with a shovel. Others are in a hurry and don’t want to take the time to buy amendments and turn them in before planting.
Here’s a picture tutorial on how to create a new garden from areas that are currently lawn, weeds or both. Note that if you have woody plants such as vines or shrubs growing where you want to make your garden you will have to remove those first. This method is most successful for places that are now lawn and small, annual weeds.
Tips for success:
1. If you have really sandy or rocky soil you might want to put a layer of composted manure on top of the area before you put the paper in place. That would be the ideal, of course. I did not do that in the area shown, and you can see that it was successful anyway.
2. Don’t think that landscape fabric does the same thing: it does not. The advantage of the newspaper is that it rots over time and amends the soil with organic matter. This allows the mulch to rot and add organics to the soil as well, so over time the soil is being improved while the grass/weeds are being smothered. Landscape fabric does not allow for the on-going addition of organic matter to the soil.
3. Don’t think that 12 inches of mulch is better than 3 or 4 inches – too much can be too much!
4. Consider the type of soil you have when it comes to watering the places where you’ve placed newspaper and mulch. These materials will hold moisture in the ground for a longer period of time, so if you have clay soils you will want to check to see how moist the area is before watering. When in doubt, water regularly around newly placed plants but before irrigating the entire area test the soil by digging over 6 inches deep and check to see how moist the dirt is.