Sunday, March 11, 2012

No Dig, Ruth Stout, Raised Bed -- My Gardening Philsophy

I am not pro this or that, or anti this or that.  I am whole heartedly for whatever gardening method I can find that is:

1.  Easy on the gardener.
2.  Inexpensive to implement.
3.  Enriches the soil.
4.  Discourages weeds.
5.  Takes less time and effort.
6.  Grows healthy plants.

I decided on raised beds in the first place for all of these reasons.  I want to be able to sit on the side of the bed and be able to do much of my garden work without kneeling, bending over, and hurting my back.  The other benefits such as containing my hard won enriched soil are good reasons also. 

So far I have been able to get the old railroad ties I need to create the sides of my beds fairly cheaply.  I need more to raise the sides up to a comfortable sitting level as I can afford it. 

I also decided on Ruth Stout's permanent hay mulch, no-till garden.  Not having to have my garden tilled every year saves work and money.  Also the benefits of composting in place, which is the natural result of Ruth's mulch method are myriad.  The leaves and hay used as mulch rots over the course of time and becomes compost. 

Soil enrichment is made easy - not having to move tons of compost around, weed control, less watering, neat garden appearance,  no unsightly compost piles, etc. are all important to me.  All I have is a small light Mantis tiller, that I only use lightly to create seed beds. 

I am able to amend the soil by just laying the horse manure, alfalfa cubes, or other organic amendments right on top of the mulch.  That way, if the manure is a little fresh, it will not burn my vegetables.

The horse manure is free for the hauling, and the organic fertilizers are relatively cheap [$15 a 50lb bag for alfalfa cubes].  The leaves I get free from a landscaping friend, and there are lots of farmers around here who are willing to sell their spoiled hay to me cheaply.

At the end of the season it is easy to put the garden to bed for the winter by adding a few more inches of leaves over the garden detrius and putting hay on top to keep the leaves from blowing.

I came up with the idea of buying heavy woven wire cattle panels used with steel fence posts from my neighborhood farm store to create a permanent trellis down the middle of each garden bed.  This eliminates the need for tomato cages and putting together flimsy trellises for pole beans and peas.  The panels only cost $20 a bed, and the steel fence posts were found behind the garage.  They should last for many years without further effort or expense.

I did buy drip irrigation hoses to water my beds while conserving water.  They are far more efficient than overhead sprinkling systems.

The White House Garden Plan

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