No-dig garden in spring, ready to plant.

Colleen Vanderlinden

I can't wait for the leaves to start falling from the trees in my yard. I like the exercise I get from raking, and they make awesome mulch. I add them to my compost pile. But besides all of those reasons, I want them because I have a few garden beds to make.

If you've been following my posts here at Planet Green, you may have gotten the sense that not only am I an organic gardener, but I'm also a rather lazy gardener. If I can avoid work, I do it. And that's why I love fall, leaves, and making no-dig garden beds.

How to Make a No-Dig Garden Bed

I hate digging out sod. Literally hate the entire process. And I have sticky clay soil that is about as easy to dig as concrete. So this method works great for me. It starts with a big stack of newspaper or corrugated cardboard.

1. Decide where you want your garden bed. Lay the newspaper or cardboard right on top of the grass. One layer of cardboard or five to ten sheets of newspaper is perfect. Overlap the edges by a few inches to ensure that you have all of the grass well covered.

2. Wet down the paper or cardboard layer.

3. Now it's time to start layering your organic matter. Anything will work for this, but some of my favorite materials are fall leaves, grass clippings, finished or nearly-finished compost, and straw. I also end up throwing in the potting soil from my container gardens as well.

4. Add the organic matter, in three to four inch layers. At least four layers is best; your finished height will be around one foot tall. Don't worry. The organic matter in the bed will decompose over the winter, and the pile will shrink by more than half.

5. Water the whole thing once you're done layering.

6. Spend the winter planning what you're going to put in your new bed.

7. In spring, most of the organic matter will be broken down, and you can go ahead and plant. You'll be amazed by how perfect your soil is, and how many earthworms you'll find in it.

If you have less-than-perfect soil, a lot of lawn to remove, or just plain can't stand the thought of digging a bunch of sod out, but want to expand your gardening space, this method is ideal. You can also do this in spring to plant right away, but you'll need to add a lot more compost to the contents to give your plants' roots a little something to dig into. Either way, this is my favorite way to make a garden bed!

Learn how to green everything in your life. Watch Living with Ed on Planet Green!