As some of you know, I grew up on a 120 acre family farm. We milked 20 cows, 2 times a day, 7 days of the week, 365 days a year from the time I was about 12 years old until I graduated high school and got the heck out of Dodge. We also did all of the other things that went with it. Seemed like we constantly ground feed, pitched manure by hand, baled hay, filled the silo, bla bla bla. I say that because, a couple of years ago, a woman who had a CSA came across this blog on the recommendation of a friend, read several entries and commented to my friend , “He could really use some help.” When I approached her a few days later wanting to get the dialog rolling and tap into her wealth of knowledge, she didn’t seem to have time. I did not grow up helping mom with a garden. I’m not even 100% sure we had a garden. So dear reader, if you happen to be reading along and see something I’m doing and have suggestions, I want to hear from you. Just try not to speak down to me like my friend’s friend. ;-) I mentor people all the time in the construction trades and you don’t have to be a twit when you’re working with someone in an area of life that is new to them.
Now that I got that off my chest…
This will be our 2nd official year of doing the “heavy mulch”/ Ruth Stout approach to gardening.
Can’t say enough good things about it! I love it.
I don’t need a worm farm, don’t need a tiller, don’t need a compost pile, there is very little weeding, what else…? The mulch helps regulate the moisture level in the soil so when the dry spells come along, plants do a lot better.
Here are a couple of fundamental gardening issues no one ever told me about, guess the old timers think everybody knows this stuff… ;-)
#1 Every time we work up the soil, we bring a new crop of weed seeds to the surface. Period. You do it, I do it, we all do it. It doesn’t matter where you live. The earth is full of weed seeds. It is a fact of life. Weed seeds stay dormant in the soil for decades.
You only have so many options.
You can try to not stir up the weed seeds. You can grow plants in raised beds full of sterile potting soil or some variation of it. You can physically pull the weeds, knock them back with chemicals, cut them down with a tiller or hoe (but if you don’t get the root, it’s just a matter of time before you’re dealing with the same plant, only this time with a deeper root system) use a flame, or cover the ground with mulch to suppress their growth. It can be made out of plastic, (row covers) or organic matter.
#2 Whenever you use a conventional tiller, you will naturally kill one of your gardens most important friends…the humble earth worm. Worms in the soil are a good thing. They aerate the soil, they help break down plant matter and turn it into humus. Their castings are fertile. (that’s why some people have worm farms). Now why would I want to kill all of those little creatures and then stir up a new crop of weeds every growing season?
I’m not sure how practical this model of gardening and weed control is on a larger scale but as Leonard Cohen put it :
“I just focus on doing the best job I can tending my little corner of the earth.”
Growing up on the farm. The seeds were already being planted in my soul.
(I would really love to hear from Bill or any of you growing crops on a larger scale on this one! DM)
Update 5/28/14 If you have a minute, 17 minutes actually, here is a great TED talk by Dan Phillips on thinking outside the box in home building with recycled items ideas :