How to Make Instant No-Dig Garden Beds


No-dig gardening traces its roots in the United States back to Ruth Stout, a home gardener who published a book in 1971 titled the "No-Work Garden Book," according to, a Discovery company. Stout's method uses layers of mulch to prevent a gardener from ever having to till or dig a garden. Yet, the original garden bed probably required some tilling. Through the years other gardening book authors, such as Mel Bartholomew, the author of "Square Foot Gardening," have added ideas to the concept of no-dig gardening and have made this form of gardening even simpler.

Step 1

Place several layers of newspaper or a few pieces of flat cardboard on top of the soil in a rectangular pattern in the spot you choose to place your garden. Select a flat, sunny spot to place your garden.

Step 2

Set one of a variety of materials around the perimeter of the newspaper or cardboard. Use bricks, large rocks, wood planks or timbers, or pavers. Concrete blocks can be stacked with layers offset to create a stable, simple raised bed.

Step 3

Stack materials, if necessary, to make the bed at least 4 inches high. Plants typically have a 6- to 12-inch rooting zone when given an unlimited amount of space to grow. Most plants, however, can still establish roots within 4 inches when limited.

Step 4

Mix one-third vermiculite, one-third peat moss and one-third compost with the tip of a shovel in a wheelbarrow. Purchase all three soil amendments from a gardening center, or find compost for free from farmers and compost programs.

Step 5

Dump the soil mix from the wheelbarrow into the raised garden bed.

Step 6

Rake the soil level before planting.

Tips and Warnings

  • Refrain from using treated lumber in raised garden beds, as inconclusive evidence shows the chemicals used may harm plants or those who consume fruit from the plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper or cardboard
  • Edging materials
  • Vermiculite
  • Peat moss
  • Compost
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Rake


  • Purdue University Extension: Container and Raised Bed Gardening
  • University of Missouri Extension: Raised-Bed Gardening
  • The Square Foot Gardening Foundation: Getting Started: Follow the 10 Basics
Keywords: no-dig garden, raised bed gardening, no-till garden

About this Author

Sommer Sharon has a bachelor's degree in IT/Web management from the University of Phoenix and owns a Web consulting business. With more than 12 years of experience in the publishing industry, her work has included "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "MORE," "Country Home," "Midwest Living," and "American Baby." Sharon now contributes her editorial background by writing for several Internet publications.