The Ruth Stout Gardening Model

Ruth Stout garden plot

 View from our 2nd story farm house window

I discovered the soil in my little “Ruth Stout” gardening plot  teeming with bugs and earthworms this morning.  Picked up a square of moldy hay and dozens of  crickets and other creepy looking bugs headed for cover.

The mood in the East orchard (and garden plot) was so peaceful and beckoning this morning I had to spend some extra time there.   I decided to square off the North end of the  potato plot and make a second planting of  Hidatsa Shield  beans.

Last night Danielle (our resident writer/poet/musician)  asked me about  the  garden.   By her own admission, gardening is not  at the top of her things to do list, so it touched me she was even willing to go there.  As I started to list some of the reasons I was excited about this years heavy mulched garden she asked me “Why doesn’t everyone  do it this way?”

“Good question!”   I replied.

In case you’ve never heard of  Ruth Stout or her heavy mulch model of gardening, here  are some of the reasons I decided to give it a whirl:

#1. Never need to till or plow your garden again, which means, you don’t need to own a tiller, or hire someone in the spring to work up the soil. Period.

#2. Very little weeding. Period.    The mulch acts like a blanket that keeps 90% of the weeds from ever germinating.

#3 No composting pile, bin, etc. to turn, handle multiple times, or babysit.  The things you would normally place in your compost pile, you now tuck under the existing blanket of mulch in your garden and mother nature  takes it from there.

#4  Don’t have to supplement  the soil with earth worms. Earth worms are a sign of good soil, and when I’ve dug into the potato hills the soil is loaded.

#5 The mulch regulates the soil moisture much better than bare ground.

#6    You don’t kill the worms in the soil that inevitably happens when you till.

#7   It frees up time – a lot of time that historically you would have spent  trying to stay ahead of your weeds.

#8 If you’re a reader, you will LOVE her books. They are  fun to read on a winters night as you sip your hot cocoa and  start to plan your garden for the next season.

#9 A heavy mulched garden is pleasing to my eyes.  I take my kitchen scraps, water melon rinds, etc. pick up the hay and tuck it underneath where it quietly begins to break down without me having to look at it.

#10  Because you don’t till you don’t bring new weed seeds to the surface.  I never connected the dots on weed seeds until just a few years ago. It is a fact of life that the soil is full of weed seeds. Every time you work up the soil,  you bring a new crop of seeds to the surface and they will germinate.

#11 No need to do that back-breaking double digging to prep your garden plot.  Even when you’re wanting to start a new plot you don’t have to till.  Get yourself a large tarp, or several large pieces of cardboard and weigh them down, and over the course of several weeks (or months if you’re planning head) everything will die off.


2013 garden produce starting to come in

view as I walk into garden

View as I walk into garden.

I would love to hear your thoughts / questions on this, as well as hear from other people who have tried the heavy mulching approach to gardening, and even if this is not how you garden, tell me something about your garden this season – what are some of your favorite things to grow, etc.

Here’s a 20 minute interview of Ruth Stout I just found on Youtube: 


Thanks for stopping by the blog! DM

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7 Responses to The Ruth Stout Gardening Model

  1. emjayandthem says:

    That is sure a beautifully, peaceful garden! I haven’t heard of this technique but it makes perfect sense to smother the weeds 🙂 And I’m craving some green beans now !
    I’d never heard of it (or her) before last Winter. I’d asked a neighbor/friend Janelle (who is a master gardener) if she had any tips for me in terms of gardening…quoting now she said, “Ruth Stout.” Just that. It piqued my curiosity. Then one day last winter I was thumbing through some old Organic Gardening magazines someone had given me. (100’s of them) I saw her name on one of the articles. Loved it! So I started looking @ the table of contents in all of those magazines,and found @ least a dozen different articles. She lit a fire under me and the rest is history.DM

  2. micey says:

    But when does all the mulch come off? Ever? I don’t expect I’ll ever be a gardener. I don’t like touching dirt. Gives me the heebie jeebies. 😁
    It (the mulch) never comes off 😉 (so you’ll never have to touch the dirt if you don’t want) Actually, the soil is teeming with healthy micro-organisms that release and stimulate certain happy chemicals in your brain…Serotonin for example. It’s a healthy, legal way to get an awesome endorphin rush 😉 DM

  3. shoreacres says:

    No gardening going on in my world. I could lay down mulch from here to Wednesday on my concrete patio, and I don’t think anything would happen. I figure, just like a concert pianist needs someone to listen, all the gardeners around me need someone to appreciate the wonderful things they grow. So I do!
    I’m with you when it comes to being a good listener for the musicians 🙂 That is not my strong suit. I’m guessing you like to exercise your creative impulse in your writing! Thanks for showing an interest in my garden post ;-)DM

  4. Jane Fritz says:

    Thanks for sharing this technique, DM. Now I just need some decent soil! 🙂

  5. Val says:

    If it ever stops raining here I will try this.

  6. Jean says:

    Love the view from your second floor window. You are so right about critters in the garden and soil of the Ruth Stout garden. Mine has created its own eco system. I’m still learning.

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