A man preparing a no tilling bed

How to till a garden without a tiller

Well, if you want to plant and do not want to till, you’re in the perfect place. In this post, you’ll learn how to till a garden without a tiller , i.e. make a no-dig bed, unneeded of tilling work.

No-dig beds are comparable to raised beds and hill beds, but are laid out flat on the ground. They offer many advantages, first and foremost the labor savings when setting up. We will inform you about the no-dig method and give you step-by-step instructions for creating a fertile bed in your garden.

What is a no-dig bed?

No dig bed with wood logs
No dig bed with wood logs

The term No-dig-Beet includes the English words “no” for “not” and “dig” for “digging up”. Literally translated it means something like “not to dig up a bed”. The idea behind this is that beds can be created without digging up the ground. This allows the natural structure of the garden soil to be preserved. A no-dig bed is filled up with new material every year and keeps collapsing as the components are gradually converted by microorganisms. Here nutrients are released and fertile humus is created. In the course of composting, heat is also generated, which supports the growth of the plants in the no-dig bed and can thus increase the yield. This means that the no-dig bed is lined up next to the raised bed and the hill bed.

What are the advantages of creating a bed without digging it up?

The planting of the bed according to the no-dig method offers many advantages, but also a few disadvantages. We have summarized the most important ones for you below.

Advantages of the no-dig method:

  • Preservation and promotion of soil life.
  • Very good water storage capacity after several years of operation.
  • Less physically demanding work.
  • Efficient weed suppression.
  • Higher soil fertility thanks to the build-up of humus.
  • Yield increase through good heating of the bed due to biological activity.
  • Long-term operation: no new installation necessary, as is the case with raised and raised beds.
  • Particularly suitable for demanding, heavily consuming plants.

Disadvantages of no-dig beds:

  • Unsuitable for root vegetables at first.
  • Large amounts of compost are required for the new plant and for annual replenishment.
  • Compared to raised beds and raised beds, less ergonomic working height and less warming and poorer protection against dehydration.
  • Depending on how good the soil quality is under the no-dig bed, the yields can be low in the first few years.
  • Voles often feel particularly comfortable in no-dig beds, as they can easily create tunnels here.

Note: The origins of the no-dig method are not entirely clear. It has been researched and applied since around the middle of the 20th century – and at the same time on different continents. A great friend and supporter of the method is the Englishman Charles Dowding, who also publishes several years of experiments with various bedding methods on his website.

Instructions: Create a bed without digging

A man preparing a no tilling bed
A man preparing a no tilling bed

Do you want to create a bed that does not require digging? A few steps are necessary for this, but the effort is worth it. There are different ways to create a no-dig bed. We present the well-known layering method, the result of which is also known as a lasagne bed.
Autumn or spring are suitable for creating a bed without digging. In spring, it is best to start planting in February so that the bed still has some time to settle. And this is how it works:

  1. Find a suitable place for your bed. Where this could be, of course, depends on the planned planting.
    Tip : Because of their good warming, no-dig beds are particularly suitable for growing vegetables or for demanding summer flowers and, depending on their needs, are usually in the sun.
  2. Mow the area where you want the bed to stand.
  3. Optionally, the future area can be bordered with bed edges. This prevents weeds from growing into the later bed and makes piling easier.
  4. Overlap the surface with several layers of newspaper or a layer of thin cardboard. This suppresses the growth of grasses and wild herbs by shielding them from vital sunlight. Moisten this layer well. The paper will rot over time.
    Caution: Do not use glossy printed materials because their colors contain heavy metals that should not get into the ground.
  5. Now a layer of “green material” follows. This means soft, nutrient-rich organic material, such as grass clippings, vegetable and fruit waste, flowers, animal dung, coffee grounds, tea bags, weed remains (without roots or seeds) or old balcony flowers. This nutrient-rich layer should be about 10 cm thick.
  6. A layer of ripe compost about 5 cm thick is placed on top . Under no circumstances should you use fresh compost, as it would be far too nutritious.
  7. There is a layer of “brown material” on top. This means hard, lignified, carbon-rich material. These include: leaves, twigs, straw, dry cuttings, hedge cuttings, bark and bark mulch, wood chips or even paper. This layer is also around 10 cm high.
  8. The sequence of layers of compost, green and brown material can be repeated as often as required until the desired height of the bed has been reached.
  9. Finally, put a layer of compost-rich potting soil, on the no-dig bed. This contains a lot of compost and is ideal for no-dig beds due to its high nutrient content. The plants are sown in this top layer.