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How to Start a Garden the Easy Way

(This post was written in collaboration with Gardener’s Supply but all thoughts and opinions are my own.) Does the idea of digging out turf and dirt keep you from starting a garden? Me too! But I’ve got a method that will save time and your back. Learn how to start a garden the easy way with these tips.

I’ve never mentioned this before, but several of our garden beds were started with the no-dig method to starting a garden.

Have you ever heard of it before?

It makes starting a new garden so much easier and you can do it for little to no cost, depending on the materials used.

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close up of lilac blooms and a garden shed on the happy gardening tour in my backyard garden with wood picket fence

Since I’ve done most of the digging and planting here by myself, I had to find other methods to save my energy for just planting.

Of course, you can start a garden using this method, but I’ve got a way that will save time… and your back.

Here’s how to do it.

Woodland Garden on the Happy Gardening tour with ferns, cranesbill, rhododendron
This woodland garden was started using the easy way. I plants some larger shrubs and used weed fabric around them. I regretted using the weed fabric in this bed. Find out why below.

The No-Dig Method to Starting a New Garden

The no-dig method is a gardening technique that involves creating a garden bed without digging into the soil. This approach is becoming increasingly popular because it’s a simple and effective way to create a healthy, thriving garden without the need for excessive labor.

I’ve been using this method to start new beds for years. And it’s the perfect way to begin my new raised garden beds this year too.

Since we dismantled the vegetable garden a few weeks ago that was in front of the garden shed, we needed to start a garden for the vegetables in another area of the yard.

close up of garden shed with wood picket fence and yellow bearded irsis
The shed garden is another area where I used the easy method to starting a garden.

Find a Location

Whenever you are starting a new garden, it’s a good idea to site the bed based on what you want to grow and where it will get the right amount of sunlight.

The location for our new vegetable garden is still in dispute. But I decided to site it in the middle of our backyard because that is the best spot to receive full sun, it is close to a water source and my kitchen. And I think it will look best there.

I’ve decided to design a raised bed vegetable garden using these self-watering raised beds by Gardener’s Supply.

Yes, that’s right, they are self-watering. Isn’t that awesome?

A large majority of the grass in our backyard is on a septic bed. So we can’t dig a new garden in that area and we’ve really struggled to grow grass there.

And my motto is, if I can’t grow grass then a garden will go in its place. It’s worked well for me so far as you can see there are several gardens throughout my home.

How to Plant Flowers in Window Boxes with view of garden shed with small cut flower garden surrounded by wood picket fence in suburban backyard

Determine the Size of the New Garden

Next, you’ll need to determine the size of your garden based on what you want to grow and how much room you have.

Since I’m doing pre-made raised beds, we built the beds, left about 18-24″ in between each one, and spaced them out accordingly.

I’ll chat more about these beds in the next blog, but wanted to share them with you while I’m setting up the new garden.

happy gardening with climbing roses and an obelisk

Supplies to Start a Garden Using the No-Dig Method

The supplies needed to start a new garden the easy way is pretty minimal. Depending on the type of garden you are making, you should adjust the materials.

  • Newspaper, Cardboard or Weed Fabric
  • Mulch, Stone or Pea Gravel
  • Scissors
  • Hose with Spray Nozzle (if you are using newspaper)
  • Landscape Pins (if you are using weed fabric)
stinking hellebore lenten rose in shade garden with different hosta varieties, variegated willow and wine and roses weigela and joe pye weedhappy gardening in the backyard garden
The backyard border was created using the no-dig method.

So Why Do the Supplies Matter?

Having started several gardens using the no-dig method to starting a garden, I have an opinion.

And it’s based on the goals of the garden.

If the goal is to start a flower or cottage garden, then use newspaper or cardboard because both will kill the grass, suppress weeds while allowing for easier planting and self-sowing later.

On the other hand, if the goal is to smother the grass, suppress weeds, and cover it with mulch, stone, or gravel to get a clean look, then weed fabric may be better to use because it will last longer than newspaper or cardboard.

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of preference. I have done shrub borders using weed fabric and it is a huge pain to dig new holes in that fabric.

It’s much easier to use newspaper or cardboard in flower, shrub, and vegetable beds.

Lilac flowers by the Fire Pit Garden at night lit with solar lanters and surrounded by hostas and twinkle lights
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing a Backyard Living Space

Directions to Start a Garden Using the No-Dig Method

  1. After you’ve sited and determined the size of the new garden, measure and lay out the area.
  2. Lay down newspaper, cardboard or weed fabric covering the entire area. If planting in the ground at the same time, dig plants in then put the newspaper and cardboard around the plants.
  3. If using weed fabric, cut to size and tack it down so it doesn’t blow around. But if you are using newspaper, apply several layers down and wet it with a hose so it doesn’t blow around.
  4. Top off the new beds with mulch, stone or pea gravel.
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way with a raised garden bed from gardeners supply
This is one of the raised beds I am using for the new vegetable garden by Gardener’s Supply. I have 5 total beds that I am using for the new garden.
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way with two raised garden beds from gardeners supply
I’m using (4) 4×4 self-watering raised garden beds and (1) 2×8 self-watering raised garden bed by Gardener’s Supply. Aren’t they fabulous? I love the industrial look of my future vegetable garden.
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way - laying out the new garden beds with weed fabric below to smother the grass
After sizing the bed, I layed the weed fabric down underneath and tacked it down so it didn’t blow around.
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way - measuring the garden space to lay out the weed fabric
Since I don’t have all the raised beds yet, I measured the distance needed to complete the garden so it is ready when the new beds arrive.
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way - raised garden beds from gardeners supply sitting on top of weed fabric to suppress the lawn
It’s looking really good so far!
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way laying weed fabric beneath raised garden beds to smother grass.
I am using 3/8″ pea gravel around the beds to finish it off and weigh the fabric down. That weight will help smother grass below.

Tips for Starting a New Garden Using the No-Dig Method

  • This method can be used to start a new garden or to suppress weeds yearly between plants. If you want to suppress weeds in the flower garden, I suggest using newspaper or cardboard between plants because they will break down over time and enrich the soil.
  • Weed fabric has its place but does not work well in a flower garden. Over time, plants grow, self-sow and reseed themselves, or you may want to change things up, and it’s really a pain to work with for this purpose.
  • Apply 4-5 layers of the newspaper when using the newspaper method so it is thick enough to last a while.
self-watering raised garden bed filled with vegetables in suburban new jersey garden
Here’s a sneak peak of the final look! CLICK HERE to see more!

I can’t wait to show you how my new raised vegetable garden beds look in a few weeks. The next steps are adding the self-watering systems, soil and amendments, plants, and more pea gravel.

Not to mention the other two beds to finish off the new garden. And I think they already shipped so I hope that’s soon!

Happy Gardening!

UPDATE: My new raised garden beds are planted and look amazing. CLICK HERE to check them out.

blue flowers on Endless summer hydrangeas in backyard garden with raised garden bed planters and garden shed - Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?

Why It’s Easier to Start a New Garden With the No-Dig Method

The no-dig method is easier for several reasons. First, it saves time and labor because you don’t have to dig and till the soil. This means less work and less strain on your back and muscles.

Second, the layers of organic matter (if not using weed fabric) help to create a healthy growing environment by improving soil structure, increasing water retention, and providing essential nutrients for your plants. This can result in healthier plants, higher yields, and a more productive garden.

Finally, the no-dig method can also help to reduce weed growth because the layers of organic matter smother weed seeds and prevent them from germinating. This means less time spent weeding and more time enjoying your garden.

Yellow Bearded Iris and Globemaster Allium in the Cottage Garden

More About Starting a New Garden

Have you tried this method to start a new garden before? If so, what are your best tips that you’d like to share? I would love to know more in the comments below.

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Outdoor Living Space Home Tour with view from fire pit in the backyard of suburban garden
Even the backyard border along the property line was created using the easy method.
Gardening for Hummingbirds in the backyard with double flowering impatiens that are pink and bearded iris near firepit garden with two adirondack chairs
Even the fire pit garden and surrounding area was created using the easy method.
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way
How to Start a Garden the Easy Way

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    1. Thank you! I’m in love with these beds. I love the look and can’t wait to finish setting them up!

  1. This makes so much sense!!! I have been trying to convince my husband to start using raised beds for his veggie gardens. I would imagine the maintenance is so much less and much easier on the back too:)
    Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. I find raised beds a little easier on the back and they are great for veggie gardens! I’m really loving these! I am hoping to get at least one of them planted with cool-season veggies this week!

  2. Pingback: Bricks 'n Blooms Weekly 25 - Stacy Ling
  3. Good morning
    I’m not sure I’m understanding if the raised beds r over the septic tank. U shouldn’t do this as the septic must breathe. Plus if growing veggies it would not be good. Please call ur septic company to be sure this won’t hurt your septic system.
    Ur gardens r gorgeous.

  4. I’m glad someone is having some luck with landscape fabric because Ihate the stuff.It just doesn’t last long and then you have a mess.I have found that heavy gauge black plastic is far more effective and it lasts until you want to remove it.That fabric is only good for leaving you with a mess in a few years.

    1. Hi Roy! I’m actually not a fan of landscape fabric at all but use it in limited circumstances like this one.

    1. Hi Pat! For each raised bed, I used 20 cubic feet of a mix of raised bed garden soil, hummus and compost.

  5. I want to try your method around my trees with hosta but I’m concerned about choking out my trees, like will they get the watering they need with all the stuff padded around them ? I tried fabric in my veg garden before and it molded ..and weeds still made they’re way through,so I’m interested in the cardboard idea.

    1. Hi Denise – if you are concerned, plant them further out from the trunk so you aren’t as close to the tree.