Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Lazy garden beds in under 1 hour

So this is something we decided to try out this year. With all the looking around for a new property and trying to sell our current house, time has been a limiting factor.

Since we want to sell our property and realising that most people probably will look at the garden and think...."there is no lawn. I wonder where the kids are supposed to play,", (despite the fact that a 3D landscape is much better for kids than a 2D lawn dominated landscape) we are reluctant to put a lot of work or money into the garden.

We came across Geoff Lawton's way of making sheet mulch beds. Simply score the ground, cover with cardboard and/or paper and then mulch heavy, heavy, heavy.

We decided to try this out and I must say, it is very quick to put together a bed. I timed myself and if I wouldn't have had to cut my own mulch in the process I would have gotten a 10'x10' bed done in less than 45 min. 

All I did was this:
I scored the ground using my rake. I will say at this point that my ground is extremely loose. I tilled it last year and made a point of not stepping on everything but stuck to my little paths. So even now I can dig comfortably with my hands into the ground and take out that crumbly goodness.

Pic 1; A corner of the bed, see the crumbles?

Then, with all the grass and weeds still in place I used thick cardboard to lay out the shape of my bed (in this case a rectangle, but any shape is possible).
I used thick cardboard and tried not to include anything with glossy print on the outside. Make sure the cardboard interlocks and overlaps, so that every space is filled and no weeds can find their way through.

Pic 2: Cardboard layer, make sure there are no gaps!

Then I used bulrushes (or straw) to mulch VERY thickly on top. I didn't even go half as much as needed but I still had about 10 inch thick mulch on top of the cardboard at the end.

Pic 3: Thick layer of mulch on top
After all this was done I used the garden hose and watered for a good long time. Water, water, water. When you think it is enough do another 2-3 min.

AND YOU'RE DONE! Yay, a new garden bed.

Pic 4: The new bed

When it comes to planting time, simply make a hole in the mulch and punch through the cardboard using a small hand tool, maybe a small shovel or even a bulb planter. Put your seedling into the hole with a small bit of compost and arrange the mulch around it to shelter it from the wind. Then  watch them grow. 
I made keyhole garden beds so that I don't have to step onto the bed to reach the plants in the middle. It is very important to not compress the ground. Don't step on it, don't kneel on it. This way you don't have to till it the next year, or the year after.

Less work, more fun. Let us know how you get on in the comment box.


  1. One can also layer green cuttings and hay successively to create some composting action in the sheet mulched bed. Eventually earthworms digest the whole lot.

  2. Absolutely. I would put the hay underneath the cardboard though. Otherwise there will be more weeds sprouting through the mulch.
    Some people really go all out and add several layers using seaweed, vegetable scraps, grass or hay, newspaper and then straw. I friend of ours also adds rock dust to some of the layers to add minerals.

  3. I have been making these beds for years. They are so easy and quick.