You aren’t going to realize it, but all next week I will not be writing my blog.  I will be embarking on my big spring project, overhauling and expanding my community garden.  I will also be thinking up new and clever ways to distract my fellow gardeners while I pee in the bushes.

There’s no bathroom at the community garden.

You’ll still get posts – I wrote them in advance.  You won’t even know I’m not here.

Last year I took on a second 20′ x 40′ plot but it wasn’t near my original garden. So when the plot beside me became available last fall I decided to take it over so I could have two plots side by side.  That meant I had to move all of the perennial plants from my old secondary plot to my new secondary plot. Confused?  Yeah, it’s a shit show.

So on a weirdly warm day in February (seriously, I’m talking Apocalypse weird) I trudged up to the garden to transplant my 2 large asparagus beds, a whack of raspberry canes and my 2 beds of strawberry plants.

The raspberry canes croaked but the asparagus survived which is exactly backwards of what  I thought was going to happen.  It was like expecting to toot and a big burp comes out instead.

And I never even got to the strawberry plants.  They are currently in my old bed, flowering like no strawberry plants have ever flowered before.

So let’s assess exactly what needs to be done during my “week off”.

Here’s my new plot, which will make up the left side of my entire plot.  It’s 20′ wide by 40′ deep.

Here’s my old plot, which will make up the right side of my new garden.  It’s also 20′ x 40′.

Those two plots together will give me a 40′ x 40′ garden.  Right now they’re just giving me a headache.

Let’s talk no dig.  No dig gardening is the theory that you do NOT under any circumstances dig your garden.  It was invented by some really lazy guy who got lucky in that the method apparently works.  I think his name was God.

No dig gardening replicates what happens in the forest.  Nobody digs up the forest to plant things.  The trees just drop their leaves and gunk on the forest floor, it decomposes into compost on top of the other soil and then seeds drop in it and grow.  Done.

My favourite no dig guru is Charles Dowding.

If you want to learn more about how no dig works click on the link above and watch Charles’ videos.  The short story is that you form your beds and never dig them.  Every year you simply add 2-3″ of compost on top and plant into that.  You don’t dig the compost in, you don’t stir things around.

The reason for this is digging your soil ruins its structure and disturbs the fungi and beneficial microbes in the soil.  And you piss off the worms by ruining their homes.

Worms, you see, make tunnels in your soil.  Some worms make horizontal tunnels along the top of your soil and other worms (nightcrawlers for instance) make vertical tunnels in your soil which are GREAT for keeping an airy soil structure that also allows water to travel down towards roots.

The longer you maintain no dig beds, the better the beds get.  Better structure, better microbial activity, better nutrient value in the soil all around.

THIS was the year I was going completely no dig.  Except I’m not.  Why?  Because I got this new plot and I’m running out of time and I have a lot of work to get done in a limited amount of time.

So I had my new plot rototilled to make constructing the new beds faster and easier.  I had to cross myself as Ron my garden buddy sunk the angry rototiller blades into the completely innocent soil and started ripping it up.  It had to be done though.   Like ripping off a bandaid.  Or waxing a moustache. I also needed to have it tilled because my two plots might be side by side, but they aren’t level to each other.  They’re very unlevel.  And rototilling the one bed was going to make levelling the gardens easier.


THIS is what I’m talking about.  I turned over a planter filled with my garden soil and it was teaming with worms.  That’s exactly what you want in your soil.  And rototilling and digging disturbs them.




Next week my plan was to take half the soil from my new rototilled bed and transfer it to my old plot, so they end up being level with each other.  It’s completely aesthetic.  My choice to do this is the absolute worst choice for my garden, and I know that.

But you can’t stop crazy.

I want a nice level playing field purely for aesthetic reasons.  A real gardener would leave things exactly as they are and build their beds around the natural slope of the soil to take advantage of the naturally occurring runoff and established soil structure.

Luckily I have a ton of compost thanks to my ever pooing chickens and there’s a good supply of compost up at the garden as well.  We all compost at the community garden.  It’s slow composting as opposed to the fast (Berkley method) composting I do at home, but it works just fine.  It just takes longer.

Here’s where the problem is.  The longer I was up at the garden staring at my two beds the more I felt like I was making a whole lot of work for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  You can see in the picture above where my left garden meets my right garden and how the left one is higher.  Actually you might not be able to see that from the picture but I can assure you it’s true.

So maybe I should just leave it.  Maybe I should just have one bed higher than the other.  I can live with that can’t I?  It might even be cute.  A raised terrace garden.  An upstairs and a downstairs.

I have 24 hours to decide on my plan, 7 days to implement it and 1 bladder to get me through it all.

Have a good weekend.



  1. Alena says:

    I think you should build a little tower, say 4′ x 4′ x 8′, and hoist a Buddha or any other suitable object to the top. Tell your fellow gardeners that you need to meditate over 2 hours or so.
    Lock yourself in your towel and pee instead of meditating. Then you can pull a cold beer covered in beads of condensation from your cooler and enjoy it on a hot July day as you proudly overlook the beauty of your garden. (Number 2 will just have to wait until you get home).

  2. danni says:

    Wow, I feel your pain. Exactly why I tore out all my lopsided raised beds in the fall and rebuilt them this spring! I had been cobbling together beds one at a time, and throwing up shoddy fencing against the groundhogs, and trapping the fat little bastards, (which only becomes a problem if you get a skunk….) My yard drops drastically so I built a massive, level fortress, fully fenced with trellises built in for climbers, three gated entrances, prepped for string method tomato growing, it is a thing of beauty!

    • Karen says:

      It is a thing of beauty! Love the boxes mitered to create a centre. I can’t even fathom boxing everything in I don’t think. But it really does make the beds easier to maintain and looks so neat. BLAH! I don’t know what I’ll do!! ~ karen

  3. Sarah says:

    Crazy knows crazy. If you don’t own your inner OCD traits and make the gardens match, it will drive you nuts and you will end up doing it later causing even more work and destruction. Just do it, you will be glad you did.

    • Karen says:

      Yep. And that’s my fear, lol. But it is a HUGE job, which normally I wouldn’t shy away from but my time is limited. Ack. ~ karen!

  4. Monique says:

    Great post and I know it will be amazing.
    You are so funny and smart ..humor injected into hard labor.
    I look forward to seeing it all happen.I am a gardener too but it seems like I do nothing compared to you.

  5. Kelly says:

    As much as I love raised beds having one in my vegetable garden might eventually drive me nuts-it’s an OCD thing. I’d probably level it to prevent headaches in the future… But that’s just me. Having said that, it’s all raised beds for me. I’m trying square foot gardening (theoretically more plants in leas space). We moved and I’m missing my flat, spacious garden. We’ll see how the raises beds compare! At least I won’t have to till the “garden”!

    • Kelly says:

      “Less” space. Dang iPhone.

      • Jeanne says:

        I am trying square foot gardening for the first time this year. I have 2 5 foot by 3 foot beds on legs since my knees are no good. I wish all of us luck in whatever method “or not” we choose.

      • Tina says:

        I’m old and my knees are shot! For health reasons, I can’t been over much so my friend built me 3 foot wide x 9 feet long garden boxes, 2 feet high. They’re so wonderful! There’s a narrow walk between each of them but they’ve made it all so easy for me, I can just do whatever I like!

    • Karen says:

      Raised beds really are fantastic Kelly. They’re so easy to maintain and weeds don’t get going in them nearly as much because seeds which normally blow across the ground don’t get up into the bed. You’ll like them. :) ~ karen!

  6. Carol Hogan says:

    Dear Karen – I would absolutely be forced to make the two beds identical. Ridiculous right? But I couldn’t stand to do it the natural – God is my gardener way. It’s a sickness. Good luck making a sensible decision

  7. Nell says:

    I only have one question. Why are there no leaves on your trees yet? Well two questions actually, when is your allergy season??

    • Karen says:

      Hey Nell. I took those pictures about a week and a half ago. Maybe 2 weeks ago? And I don’t have allergies so I don’t know when allergy season is, lol. ~ karen!

    • Alena says:

      I live just a little up north from Karen (an hour’s drive). I have a two locust trees (one is Sunburst Locust, the other I am not sure of) and a mulberry tree. None have leaves yes, they are just sprouting in little tufts.
      We are having a cold rainy spring in s-w Ontario (but I love every minute of it).

  8. Leisa says:

    I agree with Lindy’s comment, it might be really nice to have two different areas. Rows on one side, raised beds on the other. Maybe a simple wattle fence dividing the two? Good luck 🍅

  9. If I cheer you on, will you bring me veggies to the treehouse this summer? I can cheer LOUD and far :)

    PS. the garden is looking faboosh !

  10. Sabina says:

    Brilliant! Can’t wait to see the results!

  11. Melissa says:

    Leave it!

  12. Susan says:

    Ah, it’s just one big raised bed. Advice at this point is probably moot because this is planting weekend in Ontario and you’ve probably got it all fixed the way you like it. The only thing I’d be lowering would be paths. But who am I to give advice, lol, I’m gardening with a 4 x 8 raised bed (which I built myself I’ll have you know), two fish tubs and a bunch of big pots.

    • Karen says:

      Hahahahah! No, no I don’t have it all fixed the way I like it, lol. omg. Nope, things will get planted late this year. Having said that, the weather is late this year too so I don’t think it matters. ~ karen!

  13. Rene says:

    Tina-I am so sorry for your loss. The loss of pets ranks up there with all three D’s-death, disaster and divorce. I still cried for my dog caught in a memory years after he had passed. However, we should remember that the reason we grieve so hard is because of the unconditional love we experienced all the years we had with them……..what a gift! We certainly don’t get that with humans. I believe animals are with us to teach us just that-unconditional love. My heart goes out to you.
    Karen-I would leave that sucker exactly as it is! Don’t you have enough to do????? It’s a fine looking garden, or it will be by the time you’re done with it-level or not!

    • Tina says:

      LOL, thanks! I didn’t cry nearly as hard over my divorce or my mother’s death as I have in the last day. He was definitely the love of my life!

  14. Judith Rinker Öhman says:

    I’ve also hopped on the Dowding no-dig train – anything that lets me perfect my laziness a-game is okay by me! Going to make a new no-dig bed along our front walkway, this year with pumpkins and melons, but after the worms and other critters have had time to do their thing it’ll be flowers and shrubs.

  15. Lynn says:

    In my world, 40’x40′ isn’t a garden–it’s a truck farm! We are preparing to till up the front yard (we live in the country so no homeowner’s association to give us grief) for some of our summer crops. This year, it will be fairly basic–just rows of cowpeas (I love them all!) with some watermelons & pumpkins for fun! Over time, we plan to refine it to make it pretty–after all, it is what you see when you drive past the house. And PRETTY MATTERS to many of us!

    AND–I have gotten old & the knees don’t like it when I squat down so I have a Luggable Loo–a bucket with a potty lid attached. It is my basement ‘bathroom’ since I put of going to pee till it’s not a sure thing I will make it up the hill outside & then up the basement stairs. You could get one of those pop up camping showers for privacy–or just let it all hang out. Your call–no judgements! Enjoy your week–grubbing in the dirt is therapy for me!

  16. Lindy says:

    Morning Karen, I love this meeting of gardens and the aesthetics. My first thought was – if you don’t make the changes to All Level now, you will regret it every time you go up there. But after a bit more thinking (one large cup of coffee, cheese on toast) I reckon this is a great opportunity to avoid having all all level plot that looks like the Somme in winter. mud and all. Flat is neat. but also a little predictable. Why not make the middle of the plot where the two great each other into a feature. Put up a simple chunky fence with a gate or space. Grow your fruit along the fence. You could even grow those damn raspberries on one side and let them sucker and spread both sides. (I’m not suprised the raspberries carked it when you tried to transplant. They are shallow rooted buggers) The height of the fence will give your whole plot some vertical interest. You could even go mad and eventually put up an arch in the gate and grow roses or a berry. This level change will make you more creative rather than grid perfect beds. We, the Keen Followers, demand you stretch your design skills a bit further!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! You wouldn’t believe the number of gardens I’ve looked at over the winter and spring. I’ve ordered books and scoured Pinterest and gone deep into the depths of the Internet where no one else has been I’m sure. I like allll gardens. Formal and informal. Tiered and flat. I’m not sure what I’ll do. But I do know in terms of working the garden, and getting wheelbarrows in and around and such, a flat garden would make things easier. I also like that a flat garden appears bigger and not chopped up. On the other hand, you’re right, I like that there’s interest in it and not just an expanse of flat. BAH!!!! Not to sound too hippy-dippy, but I think if I just go up there and start digging, the land will show me what to do.. ~ karen!

  17. Mary Edmondson says:

    Depends! 😂

  18. Julia says:

    Karen, I worry about you! Why not make a feature of the ‘step’ ? With a tiny wall, or a run of posts with something delicious growing up them?
    I’m no gardener though, but it could be aesthetically pleasing…
    Julia 🖌

    • Sarah McDonnell says:

      a potty feature! A skinny, portable outhouse!
      Or just wear very long skirts so no one knows whats going on!

  19. Paula says:

    Just put some logs along the edge of the new garden where it meets old garden and call it a day. I do the ‘no-dig’ method, I watch all of Charles’ videos and I have several of his books. If you haven’t read Ruth Stout then you must. Not only is she a great gardener, she is also a very good author injecting dry humour (or ‘humor’ as she is/was American) throughout her books. Hot composting is my thing, however; my garden is at my home so it is much easier to maintain. Have a great week and if you can do it all in one week then I tip my hat to you! Have fun.

  20. kelli says:

    Karen I’ve come to the conclusion that you need Ritalin. Or somethin.


    You need to bottle up whatever kind of zippedidoo energy you have. Frealz :)

  21. Kennedy says:

    I get what you’re going for – the full space flattened one big perfectly arranged garden. You’re such a perfectionist (said with much admiration). It’s hard to let go of a vision of what you want and I know you already have what you want figured out in your brain. I find when my plans get fracked up (and I go just as crazy) it sometimes takes me a day to two to come to peace with a new plan.

    With that said, I think the two tier upstairs downstairs idea has SO much potential. I could be very visually stunning done up that way. A few strategically placed 6×6’s or even 4×4’s and you could both divide and bridge the area with makeshift stairs kinda like..

    And that’s just one idea of how to deal with the height variation without giving yourself hernia. I am sure your more creative readers will have even better ideas.

    Also I would probably give up a kidney for your garden space.

    Good luck!

  22. Alisa Kester says:

    You should just pee IN your garden! It’s actually a thing.

    It does work, I will say…and even if your garden in just in your backyard, it saves all those trips into the house with muddy boots!

  23. Melissa Stinson says:

    Since we just moved to the Farm, I haven’t done anything to start my garden, but I’m kinda diggin the no digging thing!!

  24. Victoria Shulem says:

    Oh Tina, I truly relate as I had to put down my last horse this week. I had bred and kept him for 25 tears. He was a character. Talk with people about your dog and the special moments you had together. Losing a beloved pet is just the saddest thing in my life. My only comfort is that I have been able to put them down while they can still smile. Hug to you, Victoria

    • Tina says:

      Oh, I do understand! My daughter was a competitive equestrian and my relationships with her horses was deep! Thank you!

    • Victoria, I had my beautiful white horse Amber for many many years. Still haven’t gotten another to replace her. We had a soul connection. I didn’t have to speak just look into her eyes.
      When I called to her in the pasture she listened. Memories…
      Loved her for sure!
      Not sure you can have that more than once in a lifetime.

  25. Tina says:

    I had to put my dog down today. I am beyond sad. Someone please say something pithy to cheer me up. Thanks!

    • Kitty McCarty says:

      Tina: I’m so sorry that you had to deal with this process but there are no words, pithy or otherwise, to cheer you up at this time. Time will eventually help. I pray for the day that remembering him/her brings you smiles not tears. Last Thanksgiving had to let go my 14 YO Pom and thought my world was over…

      • Tina says:

        Thanks! Thinking of him always brings me happiness but today that’s pushed along by the sadness following hard on it heels. He was my big love, a black lab/pitty who always had my back.

      • J says:

        Tina-so very sorry for your loss. Your furry friend will always be with you and have your back. You are blessed to have had him in your life and he with you. Thank you for sharing this-

      • Tina says:

        Thank you! I was in such pain last night and this blog was a godsend to be able to turn to. I hope everyone knows how much I appreciate all of you and the empathy. Hugs and kisses to everyone!

      • SueB says:

        Sorry to hear about your loss Tina. I have two dogs currently and am not looking forward to those inevitable times.

        I swore I’d not get another dog after our last one died, but tbh when it hurt a little less, I really missed those good times with him so we decided to rescue another (then couldn’t decide and ended up with two).

    • kelli says:

      Oh Tina, I’m so sorry. 🙁 *hugs*

      I like to think that DOG is GOD spelled backward, because they show us the unconditional, non-judgmental, highly enthusiastic love, just as God does. :)

      Here’s a bit o’ pith: “Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that *they* are gods.”

      ― Christopher Hitchens

      • Tina says:

        Thank you. I’ve always been a terrier mom and Rock Star came into my life and it’s like our souls twisted around each other so it was hard to know what was me and what was him. I just thought I’d have him for a lot longer.

    • NANCY COOPER says:

      Have you ever read, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein? If you haven’t you should. It is an entertaining, quick read but will make you feel better about your puppy.
      Blessings to you. NCooper

      • Tina says:

        One of my all-time favorite books! In fact, I got so tired of leaning them to people who then didn’t want to return them that I bought a whole box full! Thanks!

      • Gigi says:

        Enzo was the best! I know the hurt you are feeling now. It fads but never goes away. Please tell us you pup’s name.

    • Lynn says:

      I may not survive when it’s time for our Golden Retriever, Daisy, to go. She is the BEST DOG EVER! So sorry for your loss! I am crying as I type this–all of us who love our dog can totally relate–may time bring you peace!

    • Allison says:

      Tina, I’m so sorry. We put down our Great Dane, Waffles, a few weeks ago. She was my heart dog and I feel your pain. Time heals, but it still stinks.

    • Alena says:

      Awww, Tina, I am so sorry – that sucks BIG TIME! My heart goes out to you. I am slowly preparing myself that soon it will be time to say good bye to mine who will 13 yrs old in July. She is barely eating, her hind end is getting very week and shaky but there are still moments when she excitedly runs in the back yard (but walking is like at the speed of 1 mph). It’s so hard to know when to pull the plug (in the absence of a nasty terminal illness). I have lost so many dogs over the years but it doesn’t get any easier.
      Hugs your way.

    • jaine kunst says:

      Tina, BIG hugs. I taught 1st grade for 20 years and there’s a children’s book, “Dog Heaven” I used to read to my students when one of their beloved pets (or mine) couldn’t be here any longer. It will make you cry and that’s ok. You’ll be crying and smiling at the end.

    • Karen says:

      Nothing pithy. Just condolences. :( ~ karen!

    • Ralph says:

      I share your sadness.It’s been 13 tears since our German Shep. died and we have never been able to face buying another.He could not be replaced.Hope that you will keep his/her collar or leash and ruminate on them occasionally.
      Hang in there.

    • Ev Wilcox says:

      The best I have to offer you is that you are a lucky human. When they go we are devastated. But they were in our hearts and will never leave. You have the remembrance of the sweetness they brought to you, and the fun and just everything. We still cry over our best dog ever, who has been gone going on 9 years. He was the smartest animal I ever knew, as well as the best friend I ever had. I am so grateful that he was in our lives. I will keep a good thought for you, as well as for all the responders I’ve been reading. We are all sharing air hugs!

      • Tina says:

        Thank you, everyone! My cat snuggled on my chest for the last 12 hours, I think she’s feeling it, too.

      • Ev Wilcox says:

        I would bet on it Tina. As aloof as cats can be-they care.

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