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Lazy Gardening: Designing a Bed the Easy Way

Suzanne is a former regional magazine publisher, as well as a cooking and gardening writer. She lives in North Carolina.

This guide will cover how to set up a vegetable garden bed without the requirement of digging or tilling.

This guide will cover how to set up a vegetable garden bed without the requirement of digging or tilling.

No Digging Required

I'm a lazy gardener. After my neck was injured in a car accident, I decided to test my theory that you don't have to dig the ground up to plant a vegetable or flower bed. It worked, and I've been using that technique for 20-some years.

A huge mound of compost was sitting in the corner of my yard for about 20 years when I decided to put my "no digging required" technique to use. When I moved to this location in mid-December with dozens of daylily tubers from my former garden, I simply placed them on the existing lawn and covered them with top soil, and they managed to thrive and multiply as if I had spent hours digging holes.

Success Using Only a Hose and a Rake

This vegetable garden was laid out and planted in less than two hours using a hose and a rake. The key is to completely cover the existing grass and vegetation with soil that will smother it. Although I used soil from my 20-year-old compost pile, you can simply purchase soil from your local garden center or Lowe's, or order a truckload of topsoil, have it dumped on your garden plot, and then get out your hose and a rake and follow my lead.

Pop your plants or seeds into wet soil.

Pop your plants or seeds into wet soil.

What You'll Need

  • Flexible garden hose
  • Garden soil either purchased by the truckload or, for smaller areas, bags from the garden center
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Iron rake
  • Water
  • Seeds or rooted or potted plants

Step 1: Choose Your Location and Lay Out Your Design With a Hose

  1. Choose your location depending on the type of garden you are planting. If it is a vegetable garden, make sure it receives at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. If it's a shade garden, locate it in a northwest to north location.
  2. Order your topsoil, have bags delivered from the garden center, or use available compost and soil from your own private source. In my case, I have a source of rich compost and soil that I carried to my site with a wheelbarrow.
  3. It is not written in stone that a vegetable bed be square or rectangular in shape. Lay out the design of your choice. Since I wanted my vegetable garden to blend in with my flower borders, I used a kidney-shaped design. This is easy to do with a garden hose. Leave your hose in the sunlight for an hour to warm it so it will be flexible and easy to manipulate.
  4. Leave the hose in place while you spread the soil with a rake, making sure you cover all the grass (or weeds) completely to a depth of three inches.
  5. Next, spray the soil, wetting it so that it is completely saturated. This step is important as you need to settle the soil and work it into the grass or weeds below, which will decompose from lack of sunlight.

Step 2: Poke in the Seeds or Pop in Your Plants

  • Before you plant anything, stop and think about what types of vegetables or flowers you are going to plant. It makes sense that planting corn in a 5 by 10 foot garden would not be practical.
  • If your bed is small, look for plants that grow upwards and take up less space, such as pole beans. Choose tomato varieties that don't spread out and use tomato cages to confine them.
  • After I made my choices, I simply planted both seeds and vegetable transplants by hand.
  • To plant the transplants, all I did was hollow out a spot and plop the little transplant in.
My little box of tomato, pepper, and squash transplants.

My little box of tomato, pepper, and squash transplants.

Step 3: Keep the Soil Moist

The key to this design is to keep the soil moist until your seeds sprout. Also, by keeping the soil moist, the grass under the soil will decay and turn into compost.

I used Miracle Grow plant fertilizer weekly, which off-set the nitrogen being used to decay the grass.

As you can see in the photo below, my instant garden was growing nicely after one month. The tomatoes and green peppers came on like gangbusters. Before I knew it, I was able to pick the first squash.

The Easiest Garden You Ever Grew

Defy the garden experts who tell you to use a tiller or hand-shovel the soil before planting your garden.

Try my idea and you will have to agree that this is the easiest garden you ever grew without lifting a shovel!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Mel Kesterson on December 18, 2019:

My arthritis doesn't allow me to partake in gardening but a friend was gifting me with a load of plants (hostas) and I was desperate to figure out a way to get them in our ground without killing myself. Thank you so, so much for this article. It's not lazy gardening though, it's BRILLIANT gardening!

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on March 10, 2014:

Marie, Marie, Marie...use a snow shovel! (I bet you have one!)

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on March 10, 2014:

Would you believe that I don't own a garden rake? (A situation I must remedy.)

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on June 19, 2013:

cool simplicity :-)

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on December 05, 2012:


Jill Spencer from United States on December 03, 2012:

Like your pretty vegetable garden! We made a raised island this way over the summer. Using a garden hose realy was a great way to get a good shape.

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on December 01, 2012:

Luckily we only have fescue to deal with. I have used this technique to prepare both flower and vegetable gardens with no problem of grass growing up through the soil. The grass decays and is just another layer of compost. Try it, you'll like it!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2012:

My husband and I once built a raised garden for my mother who had just become widowed when my dad died. We used landscaping timbers and it was about 8 feet in length by 4 feet in width. It was built up about 3 feet with LOTS of dirt in it. After about a year or so the bermuda grass was growing up through all of that dirt! They now sell some type of barrier cloth. I would use that first before putting the dirt in. Where you live they must not have that type of grass. Would love it if your method worked the same way down here.

On another note, I have often used a garden hose for the outline of new garden beds against a house. Easy to visualize the final bed by doing that. Smart!

Your garden looks wonderful!!! I had a huge garden in Wisconsin Rapids years ago and wrote a hub about it. I also used compost. Where we now live I have much less garden space because of so much shade. Up, useful and interesting votes.

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on May 08, 2012:

Super! I question everything, so when I decided to go against the old ideas about gardening, and just followed my own knowledge about how soil decays, etc. I have used this idea for years and it takes so much work out of garden design. Thanks!

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on May 06, 2012:

Hi Lilleyth - I am a complete novice when it comes to gardening; but I am looking for ways to assist my son and daughter in law. They are very busy, don't have much experience, but just moved into a house with a huge yard and a perfect sunny area perfect for a vegetable garden. Your Hub is very helpful and I am going to pass it on to them. Thanks and have a great week. :) SHARING

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on April 30, 2012:

It should work on any soil because as the plants, minerals, and garden soil lay there, it is changing the soil beneath it as worms, and other microbes take up residence.

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on April 30, 2012:

Try it, you'll like it as they say! Thank you for stopping by.

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on April 30, 2012:

Thank you so much for the "up"! I appreciate it!

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 29, 2012:

This sounds interesting, but I think the technique might work better on some soild than others. Pat's garden is on very chalky soil - with lots of rocks.

Pamela Hutson from Moonlight Maine on April 29, 2012:

What a great idea! I have had terrible luck with vegetable gardening. This looks like something even I might be able to do! Thanks Lileyth. :)

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on April 29, 2012:

This is wonderful and so simple that even a gardening dunce like me can follow. Voting up up up and up again.

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on April 25, 2012:

Yes, it is easy as that! Thanks!

CassyLu1981 from Wilmington, NC on April 12, 2012:

Wow, I never thought to use the hose as a pattern for the garden. Makes it so much easier if you can see what you are doing. Thanks for sharing!

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on March 25, 2012:

Thank you Rdown, it looks like it is going to be a good year for a garden.

rdown from Usa on March 24, 2012:

Great Hub! I was planning on starting a vegetable garden this year and these tips are great.


Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on June 01, 2011:

Thank you acellucci. If you approach gardening by just using common sense, don't think about it too much, you can grow anything. For instance, instead of removing weeds that you pull from around your plants, leave them there to decay and make humus. Weeds are nature's "free" fertilizer.

acellucci from Pennsylvania on June 01, 2011:

Awesome gardening tips. I wanted to grow a garden but wasn't sure how to go about it. Loved this article!

Suzanne Sheffield (author) from Mid-Atlantic on September 03, 2010:

I've never heard that about tomatoes and fact, my pepper plant is covered with peppers and planted right next to a huge tomato plant.

Tammy on July 27, 2010:

Why won't my peppers grow? Someone told me not to plant them next to tomato that true?

daisyjae from Canada on July 24, 2010:

I love easy gardening tips like this!