No-Till information needed, please. : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Could someone explain the basic idea of "no-till"? Can a whole garden be planted this way? There is grass on the location where we would like a garden, but think there is a lot of clay. Do you leave the grass and plant the seeds or ????? Wouldn't the grass take all the nutrients from the garden plants? We want to plant beans, lettuce, potatoes, etc; a nice variety.

-- Janet in Kansas (, November 11, 2001


Hi, Janet, We tried a no-till method for our garden this spring and it worked really well. The year before we tilled the grass and tried to remove all roots, but it still grew back after all that work. There's a book called Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza and we used her ideas for the garden beds. We used cardboard boxes and also feed bags worked well that you put down on top of the grass and then put down layers of compost, chopped leaves, grass clippings, barn litter, whatever you have available. Or some good top soil if you can get it reasonably priced. We layered the different organic materials and put some top soil on top and then just planted seeds or transplants. It was the easiest garden I've ever done and has really kept the grass from growing back. Raised beds with wood borders (but not pressure treated) or concrete blocks make a nice really permanent enclosure (plus you can plant in the holes of the blocks...I like to do marigolds and other small flowering plants around the outside) and helps keep the surrounding grass from getting in the beds. Replanting should be real easy too. We will just have to add in some compost and a little more top soil and then just plant again. Much better than fighting with a tiller only to have the grass come back again anyway. Now if we could only find an easy solution for the bug problems here in Florida. Good luck with your garden!

-- Sherry S, N.Fl (, November 11, 2001.

We can leave the grass IF we put down layers of wet newspaper, cardboard or old cotton sheet first. Then pile on layers of compost, leaves, straw and chip mulch about 12-18 inches high. We do this now, in the Fall. Come spring we add more good compost before planting. Check the archives for good discussion on this topic.

-- Anne (, November 11, 2001.

Hi Whispering - I like the smother method, myself. There are a variety of ways to do it. I never have enough mulch material to make a thick bed tho, wish I did! Here in zone 4b/5 I am on a med/light clay soil and use junk mail, newspaper and broken down cardboard boxes. It does a passable job itself, with nothing on top except rocks if you have a lot of them, but it's very unsightly and I've been known to accidently step on a rock & trip myself! A friend of mine in Tulsa beats the weeds this way: smother the soil between plants however you please, dig a hole for say a pepper transplant, the hole being like 6-8 in diameter and 6-8 in deep, and put your good quality mix into the hole, planting the pepper in that; then when you water, you use a cup or so from a pail and just water that plant, or a sprayer on the hose to selectively water that plant. Not as slow as it sounds unless you have a really big area. The clay does not support the weeds & grass nearly as well as the good soil does, and there is less weeding just by default. To go in the hole you can use any number of mixes. If you compost, you can fill it completely with new well-rotted/aged compost, mix with well-rotted manure, get a huge bag (cheap) of just vermiculite or perlite to mix a little in, get some good top soil or peat moss or humus or whatever you can get cheaply from the wal-marts or other sort of places - you mix it up as you like it there in you wheelbarrow or plastic tub or whatever. We would use water from the little fish/water pond - they need some water changed out regularly anyway. What we do there is use a watering can or pail, scoop out some water, and walk by watering plants selectively; after a few times or however much water you needed to change out of the fish, you stick the hose in there & refill the level, and when that's done, walk around with the hose & water again anything that still needs it (it also dilutes the fish water a bit) I haven't had any trouble with the nitrogen being too high and burning the plants - they seem to love it. Some people also use compost teas - have a tub or whatever of compost that is not done, take the water in pails or watering cans and do the same thing. You wouldn't want to spread this high-nutrient stuff indiscriminantly across the lawn or a weedy area, right? So it's the same kind of thing. We also plant lettuces and leafy things among the root crops in a raised bed - helps keep the weeds choked out. Then thinning is an act of creating a salad - Hope I gave you some ideas to work with! Happy gardening - Helen

-- Helen, in WI (, November 11, 2001.

You picked the right season to be interested in no till farming! Everyone in suburbias are bagging up your mulch/compost & setting it by the curb for you,twice a week at that! My plot was 25' x 35' 1st year now in its 2nd yr its 35' x 103'. This is my second mulch garden, oh how it hurt to leave all of that beautifull dirt! Fall is the easiest time to start a 'mulch garden' as coined by the great gardener Ruth Stout. Hopefully your library has a book by her. The toughest weeds will invade the edges & pop up where you pull back the mulch to plant. So no till is not no weed. But they have very loose roots easier to pull/hoe. I use nothing but bagged leaves-pine oak-pecan- any kind [sticks too!] raw & finised compost, & straw /manure from a couple of horse stables. The soil does not get overly acid, but the soil does take longer to warm in the spring under its blanket. Transplanting is used mainly. Direct seeding crops is pretty much out for the 1st & somtimes 2nd year[depd. on your perin. weed types] except for raised hill plantings where you intensevly weed a small area & build it up or impost weed free soil & build it up. Give it a try even if you don't like it it will have given you lotsa biomass to turn under!

-- bj pepper in C. MS. (, November 11, 2001.

We've just finished up our 3rd season of mulching here, and just love it! We mainly use hay, and occasionally throw some manure on top of the old in the fall before covering it with some new. Most of what we use is from a round bale, and the weeds don't seed in it like most people think! One time, we had some weird weed that must have been in the hay come up thick, so I just flipped the hay over on top of it and that took care of it (it was too small, numerous, and irritating to pull out, altho the rest of the weeds are easy to pull for the most part). We used Ruth Stout's book "Gardening Without Work" for our research - not only is it informative, but some parts are a riot! She must have been one great lady - she is so lighthearted and hysterical in the book!

-- Leslie in MO (, November 11, 2001.

Hi again - see also Elizabeth's new thread, a little later (higher) on the list of topics :) Helen

-- Helen, in WI (, November 11, 2001.

Thank you all very much for your advice. I really appreciate your help.

-- Janet in Kansas (, November 13, 2001.

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