Happy Soil

“Happy Soil” is a concept Arjen Lentz came up with when creating his first Australian veggie patch in 2001, based on the “no dig gardening” system. I understand from someone in-the-know that my method is like a modified permaculture no-dig preparation. It’s basically an even more lazy version of the no-dig, with possibly even better results. No tedious digging or building, no chemicals, no fuss, and very little time. Try it! let me know how you fare (use the Discussion page for discussion).

Basically, all my gardening efforts use what I call “selective neglect”. Do what needs to be done, but arrange things so most stuff can take care of itself most of the time, and can also cope with a bit of neglect (we all get busy sometimes) as well as serious drought.


  1. Clear area of any above ground weeds, big roots, etc. Try and get the woods with some gentle poking but no need for too much fuss.
  2. Generous sprinkle of fertiliser. For veggie patches chicken poo is best, but cow poo works pretty well too. You can also add blood&bone, seaweed fertiliser, etc. All the nice organic stuff.
  3. Cover with 4 layers of newspaper. Layer such that there’s overlap between the adjacent newspaper, we don’t want anything weeds to sneak through. If it’s windy, you may need to slightly moisten the newspaper to have it stay down. (cardboard -like from IKEA boxes- can work too, but can be troublesome as water doesn’t drain through easily, and the fertiliser underneath can go mouldy for lack of oxygen.)
  4. Cover newspaper with 10cm of mulch. Lucern or cane is good. Don’t use wood mulch for a veggie patch.
  5. Give fairly generous watering, but realistically a bucket or so per sq.mtr will be fine.
  6. If it doesn’t rain, water again once or twice a week.
  7. After about 2 weeks, poke through the newspaper and look at the soil. You will find it is nice and dark soil, moist, and teeming with worms. Happy soil! Realistically, you may not get your worms for free arriving in your patch somehow, but I’ve never had to introduce any.


  1. Prep a bucket with water, water crystals (moisture retention) and some compost.
  2. Move mulch out of the way, poke a hole or strip in the newspaper as needed for what you’re planting.
  3. get some soil out, put it in the bucket and mix it in.
  4. put in seeds/seedlings.
  5. backfill from bucket.
  6. Some plants/seeds require a higher mound, others require mulch to be kept away from stems. Mind these details.
  7. Do keep as much newspaper in tact as possible, and as much mulch covering also. This will keep the weeds out, and the moisture in.


  • Keep mulch thickness at approx 10cm to retain optimal moisture retention.
  • Be conservative with watering. Once or twice a week is plenty. Make the plants work for it (longer/stronger root systems). If you water too often, they will be too lazy to deal with either periodic neglect, or drought.
  • The newspaper could attract termites, so don’t do this right next to your house. But otherwise, you probably already have termites in your garden anyway. Make sure you see enough ants around, if they’re there then they’ll keep the termites under control. You can periodically check underneath the newspaper, see if you spot any of the white critters….