Our District

No-dig beds or Puke

Puke planted out in November

Matariki is the start of the year, a time for new beginnings.

Our instinct can be to hide indoors in winter, but it’s a great time for soil building. Manure, leaves, seaweed from winter storms, dead plants, grass clippings, weeds (preferably without seeds or roots) – all these can all be piled up to rot down over winter and be ready for planting in spring.

This technique can be used to fill a raised bed; on top of an empty bed; to make a new bed, or to make smaller mounds or puke, ideal for planting pumpkins or kamokamo into in November. These need lots of room, but the puke provide a pocket of good soil for roots- allow about 2m between them for plants to spread.



Building a no-dig bed or puke:

1. Prepare the area: If it is grassy, scythe or trample the grass; if there are pernicious weeds like dock or kikuyu, dig them out. You can make a no-dig bed on top of gravel or concrete. Edgings are good, though not essential – driftwood or sleepers are good.

2. Gather materials:

  • Cardboard and newspapers to lay under the bed.
  • A pile of greens for nitrogen: grass clippings, manure, vege scraps, green leaves, green weeds (without seeds), blood and bone.
  • Roughly twice as many dry browns for carbon: hay, dead leaves, old ponga or bracken fronds, seaweed, straw, lupin or tagasaste branches.

3. Create:

  • Completely cover the area with wet cardboard/ newspaper.
  • Layer materials, starting with a thick layer of browns (twigs and branches, even logs are good), then a thinner layer of nitrogen and so on. The higher the better.
  • End with a carbon layer, sprinkle with lime and water well. Cover with sacks or an old blanket or sheet (not necessary for puke,) leave about 8 weeks to break down a bit.
  • For puke, start with a small pile of twigs or hedge trimmings and layer on grass clippings, seaweed, leaves and manure.

4. Plant: In spring, make holes in your no-dig garden/puke, and fill them with compost or garden soil. Plant seedlings into these pockets of soil. Gather the carbon material back around the seedling to mulch. Water well and watch it grow!


The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools.

Community Visits and workshops are free. 

To contact the Greener Gardener, call the Council on 296 4700 or 0800 486 486 or see www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/greenservices