Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How-To: No-Till Gardening

Growing your own food is one of the essential skills for a renaissance man.  Now is the time of the year to start planning for next years garden.  Lately there has been a large movement geared towards growing your own food.  Urban gardens are popping up in larger cities all over the country, many people in suburban areas are starting to learn the skills necessary to grow their own food, and of course, there has been a resurgence in the farmer's market over the last decade.  There are many reasons for this, none of which I will go into in this blog.  Whatever your reasons, (and there are no wrong reasons) growing your own food in your backyard will not only make you feel better about yourself, but it will also help you to save money and help the environment.

This blog post is about no-till gardening.  I've found this to be one of the cheapest and easiest methods for growing a garden.  The nice thing about this method is, that you can mow down your garden and in a few weeks time no one will ever know it was there.  It doesn't require any special equipment, and the only real investment is your sweat.

The first thing you need to do is contact your local government agency and get your soil tested.  Just like people, plants need a variety of minerals for good health.  Get your soil tested and buy/find the minerals you need and add them to the top of the soil.  This will ensure that the plants are getting the nutrition they need to grow strong and healthy.  Linked below is an example soil test kit.  I urge you to google and find the best way to get the soil tested in your local area.

 Jiffy/Ferry Morse Seed Co 390446 Premium Soil Test Kit (Google Affiliate Ad)

It's almost fall and it's time for those leaves to start falling, but if you're like me what are you to do with your yard waste?  Bagging them is a hassle, and you have to find somewhere to dispose of them.  The local garbage collection won't take them.  In comes the no-till method for gardening.  In the no-till method, you are basically creating a compost pile, but instead of having to deal with it all the time, you are composting right where you want to garden. This method has many advantages over more traditional tilling.
  1. The biggest advantage is you don't have to buy a tiller.  Tillers are expensive, and prone to breaking down.  By not needing a tiller, you save yourself a lot of time and money. 
  2. No weeding during the heat of summer.  By using your yard waste on your garden, you are killing all the grass and grass seeds that would normally grow in between your pretty rows of vegetables. 
  3. There is no hassle of removing your yard waste.  No bagging, no disposal fees.  Just pile it on your garden and go.
  4. Promotes beneficial bacteria and insects for getting a better yield from your garden.
The no-till method is not all roses either.  There are several disadvantages to using this method.  For one, the yard waste will attract slugs and snails.  These pests can wreck your garden. There are several ways to control such garden pests.  We will discuss those earlier next year when the time comes to start controlling insect pests naturally. 

There are 4 basic steps to creating a no-till garden bed. 

Step 1: Add your fertilizer and nutrients that you need.  Just pick your spot, get your soil test, and spread the  materials you need. 

Step 2: Get some old cardboard boxes and lay down on top of where you want your garden to be.

Step 3: Save your old newspapers and lay them on top of the cardboard.

Step 4: Cover everything with leaves and other yard waste.

It's recommended to go ahead and water the newspaper and cardboard before you add the leaves on top.  This will ensure that you everything will begin to break down properly, and to protect you from an errant windstorm that will blow "trash" all over your yard. 

Voila! You're done with your garden spot.  When the spring comes, you will have beatiful soil all ready for the planting, and you will have made you're life so much easier.