Here we go with my third year of trying to grow an organic vegetable garden! I haven’t had much luck the last two years, but I have great hopes for this year. I’m trying a new method this time where the focus is on building up the soil and providing gentle nourishment and protection to the earth in return for her bounty, instead of ripping into her, plowing violently with the till, and spending the summer constantly pulling out weeds, destroying pests, watering, and trying to force her to produce.
I heard about no-till for the first time this winter, and I immediately knew deep in my heart that this is a much better way of doing things. It is respectful of mother nature and her needs, plus it is sustainable. Traditional agriculture, like much of the larger dominant culture, has tended to take more than it gives. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides leave the soil depleted and poisoned, and the produce yielded is often low in nutrients.
In contrast, with no-till you leave the ground intact, allowing previous growth to decay and feed the soil, while using compost and thick mulching to avoid an overgrowth of weeds. The mulch also decays over time to feed the soil further, and then another layer is added the following year to start the process again. The soil gets constant organic fertilization, is better aerated, and retains moisture better. Since the garden does not need to be watered as often, it conserves water as well. Very little watering and weed pulling makes this a much less labor intensive way of gardening. Best of all, the healthier soil tends to produce better quality, more nutrient rich vegetables. It’s an all around win-win situation.
Since this is my first year doing this, I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes along the way. From what I’ve read, this way of gardening can get quite intricate and technical. To begin my journey, I’ve chosen to follow the simplest method I could find.
First I started with newspapers for sheet mulching. I just laid them out 4 or 5 pages thick over the area where I want my garden to be. Then I piled a layer of compost on top. Next, I’ll add several inches worth of organic mulch, consisting mostly of hay and leaves gathered from other areas of my land mixed with more compost.
When I am ready to plant, I’ll use the shovel to dig down through the mulch and newspapers to plant my seedlings. Then I’ll push the mulch back around the plant. Over the season I’ll keep adding mulch periodically, grass clippings and such. I’ll deal with any pests that present themselves organically. I have quite a large file on organic, non-toxic pest control.
Look for more posts on how my garden grows throughout the season!