Christine's Blog

No-Till Mulch Gardening

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for creating a mulch garden 2.JPG Yesterday, I attended with my friend Leslie, a 3 hour 'no till gardening' workshop in Orangeville, ON taught by Russell Scott. I learned from this workshop (as well as from an Organic Soil Management course taught by Heide Hermary) that the first 6 inches of soil are very very important. We cannot begin to fathom the complex miniature ecosytems and biodiversity that exist in this layer and the huge role they play in the foundation of life on this planet. In gardening, as in other areas of our life, we often take for granted the things we can't see - but the role that microorganims and bacteria play in nuturing and supporting life on this planet is profound. Hence no till gardening. Disturb the first 6 inches of soil as little as possible. We learned that we should add mulch (such as trees leaves, straw, or decomposing plant material) to new and existing gardens every year, to provide rich organic matter that will give nutrients back to plants as well as increase the soil's water holding capacity. Where I live, we have a lot of clay and not much organic matter, so this is something I want to work on with my lawn and garden.

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Comments (4)

In Oregon, I've found that tilling is usually essential in the intial phase, and that afterward, the upper inches can be left without tilling.

That works only if people do not compact the soil by walking on it, for if they do, cultivation is once again more essential than leaving the soil undisturbed.

So one of the great essentials to no-till gardening is finding ways to keep soil from compacting.


M. D. Vaden | August 12, 2009 at 7:17 PM

We learned to make a new garden bed which consited of the following steps:
-create a design for your vegetable/flower garden (using a hose worked well - we also created 'key holes' in the garden shape with the idea being you carve out 'little areas to tend' to your garden, but not stand on the garden soil and compact it)
-on your newly created design, lay down corrugated cardboard (removing all tape)and lay it done on your garden bed, mimicing the new shape (you may have to cut the cardboard to do this). Make sure your cardboard overlaps areas where there weeds might want to pop through (detering weeds is whole objective of using cardboard).
-next put about 3" of compost/triple mix on top of your new garden shape
-next put 3" - 6" of organic matter, like leaves, straw etc.
-when you are ready to plant (we planted seedlings) you make an indent in the organic matter and soil and pop the plant in. The other day we planted tomatoes, peppers and marigolds.
- at the end of the growing season, at harvest time, you can remove the dead plant material and add it to a compost bin (wooden slat type)
-next year in spring, add this compost on top of your garden bed.

Gardening is not an exact science. We need to allow ourselves to have fun,experiment, learn by observation and make mistakes. Gardening is a great place to do that!

Christine replied to Calvin | May 26, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Christine, your post has solidified (for me) the "disturb as little as possible" concept that Sherry & Terry mentioned in their submission've explained it very well, thanks!

As of this year, we've mulched our veggie beds (always did the flowers and fruit), and I'll find a way to feed the compost to the gardens without disturbing the top layers. Did the course mention how to do this?

Great stuff...I've changed three practices already since starting our DSF participation!

Calvin | May 26, 2009 at 5:06 PM

Wonderful! I love it. What simple and easy (I assume) way showing people organic gardening is being done.

Michael | May 26, 2009 at 7:33 AM
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