If you are planning a new garden area this season, conventional wisdom tells us we should begin by digging up and turning over the soil. I too subscribed to that framework for my first few years in gardening. Growing up in a farm rich region I remember the lot next to my house being tilled and planted with a variety of vegetables each season. So naturally I thought ALL gardens had to be created that way! But over the past 10 years I have subscribed to a “No Till Gardening” method. It just makes sense. Not only does it save you some back breaking work, it saves time, uses natural resources, reduces weeds, and builds great organic soil to feed your plants.
Here are my tips to try no till gardening this season:
- Plan to start this process as soon as the snow melts. You will need lots of moisture for it to work. The snow melt and spring rains are an integral part of the process.
- Map out your new garden area and cover it with cardboard to kill the spring emerging grass and weeds. Use garden stakes to keep the cardboard in place.(I have used newspaper, but find cardboard a better resource)
- If taking over a grassy area…I use my weed trimmer and take all growth down to the ground…leave the clippings, omit the cardboard…..then start the layers. (this is my “lasagna-style” no till gardening. I can reuse the organic clippings as a first layer compost)
- Install some sort of bedding border: masonry, landscape edging or garden bed trench. This will mitigate weed/grass encroachment and give you a nicely defined area.
- Add layers of organic material. I use last autumn’s decomposing leaves as my first layer, then add a combination of last year’s mulch that has been decomposing nicely over the winter and early spring. You will need a good 3 inches of each
- Add a high nitrogen source such as Milorganite to help break down the material faster for planting.
- Generally you are looking at about 6 inches of top dressing in your area.
- Spring rains should keep area moist for the decomposition.
- After Memorial Day I top dress with this season’s fresh mulch and begin my planting!
By eliminating the tilling, you don’t turn up last season’s weed seeds. You start a rich environment for planting and begin a system of soil improvement. An annual organic mulch top dress will keep your soil integrity, reduce compaction and erosion possibilities; while improving your water retention. Now that is “common sense and sustainability” all wrapped up in one method!
Let the Meltdown begin and lets get the 2018 Garden season underway! Start your season off with fun and new learning at my 2nd Annual Dig into Gardening Day at Longfellows Conference Center in Saratoga Springs. We will be talking common sense garden design, rainwater harvesting/gardens, hardy season long annuals and habitat friendly gardens! Enjoy an entertaining garden friendly culinary demonstration by Chef John Capelli of the Olde Bryan Inn and healthy eating luncheon. Register now @:http://www.gardengoddesssenseandsustainability.com