February 2018

Dig in now (or not) for new garden beds next spring


One of the best things to do in fall and early winter is to make new garden beds.

The bed can be dug now, then piled high with organic matter. The additives decompose all winter, working their way into the newly dug bed to create a great planting place next spring. Here are three ways prepare a new bed.

Digging method

  • Remove grass and weeds.
  • Dig the bed 12 to 15 inches deep, turning the soil.
  • Apply several inches of compost or rotted manure and let the bed rest through winter.

Double-dig method

  • Dig a trench about 12 inches wide and the depth of the shovel or spade, moving soil into a wheelbarrow.
  • Loosen the soil another 10 to 12 inches deep with a garden fork.
  • Add a layer of organic matter, such as chopped leaves, compost or rotted manure.
  • Dig a trench parallel to the first one. Spread the soil dug from the second trench onto the first.
  • Add a layer of organic matter to the second trench.
  • Repeat this process until you get to the last trench. Once the organic matter has been applied, spread the soil from the first trench to the last one.

Layering method

There’s no digging or tilling and it’s incredibly easy. It is promoted by Patricia Lanza, author of the best-selling, award-winning book Lasagna Gardening.

  • Place a layer of five sheets of newspaper or a single layer of cardboard over the area of the new bed and wet it down. No need to remove grass or weeds because the paper or cardboard will smother those plants.
  • Apply alternate layers of shredded leaves, compost, rotted manure, kitchen scraps, shredded newspapers, untreated grass clipping, top soil and other green or brown organic matter, building to about 12 inches high.
  • In spring, top off with a couple inches of compost and plant away.


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