Our soil is not the easiest. In fact I have to admit I really did not enjoy the original making stage of our garden. We had to get creative in how we gardened just to keep going. When you watch Monty Don slipping his spade into his soil we could only look on in envy. We have a lot of flint and the soil is so shallow that often it has been only the very tip of the spade in the soil before a flint is hit. This is one reason for us to have chosen working with a perennial forest garden rather than a more annual growing system.
For areas where we do want to grow annuals (or simply improve our soil) we have found the best way for us to create borders is using our own unique style of no dig system. We have been doing it this way for a few years and we know it works. It does not give us an instant bed, but it does give us depth and a weed free bed in about a year for relatively low input effort. It also does not require us to buy in any compost or use up any of the precious compost we make.
So how does it vary from the usual no dig system you might ask? We use large heavy duty paper sacks in which animal feed is bought. We turn them inside out so they are easier on the eye; light brown rather than colourful and printed. Then the majority of our weeds are put in these bags as we do our weeding. Once the sacks are full we lay them close together over the unprepared ground of the new border-to-be.
The weight of the contents of the sack holds it securely in place without allowing any light to the weeds and the sack gives the right mix of carbon and nitrogen for it to turn into compost.
For us gardening on the scale we do, this is a very valuable technique. If you garden a smaller ornamental garden it may not be for you!
Note: Do not add brambles docks or nettle roots to the sack, or any other really invasive perennial weeds.