Green Guide to Gardening: The No-Dig Approach

Like so many families these days, we embrace the importance of organically-grown food in our diets. But let’s face it – it’s not the most affordable habit.  Weary of the expense and tired of having to settle for conventional supermarket produce trucked in from afar, we decided this was the year we would finally plant our own kitchen garden.

We are quickly discovering that gardening with the environment’s health in mind can take less time, effort, and money than conventional gardening methods. In Little Lake County’s latest Green Guide Series, this novice gardener, will share some of the “green” techniques my family will be attempting in our own garden patch this year.  So put on a big floppy hat, hand your kids a trowel, and join us in our journey!
No-Dig Gardening
First things first, before you start planting you need to prepare your soil. Dump the idea of renting a heavy and expensive rototiller (that burns fossil fuels *cough* cough*) or breaking your back turning the earth with a shovel.  Lee Reich, PhD, sold me on the No-Dig approach in his book, Weedless Gardening.

Why Do It?
Traditionalists instruct that you need to till to remove weeds and aerate the soil, but no-dig converts believe that disrupting the soil actually contributes to soil erosion, kills beneficial microbes, and produces more weeds by bringing weed seeds to the surface to germinate.  By not tilling, you will in fact have fewer weeds, which again equals less work for you.  Winning.

How We Did It
We incorporated the no-dig principles by preparing our garden beds using the “sheet mulch” method:

1) Select your garden bed area and mow down any existing vegetation as low as you can.

2) Hose the area down and lay out your first layer of “sheet mulch.” This can be old newspapers, cardboard, or even t-shirts.  This layer acts as a barrier to suppress weeds and will eventually decompose.  (Wow, you’re recycling too!) Hose it down so it stays in place.

3) Top it all off with fresh topsoil and compost and you are ready to plant!  We used raised beds, but you don’t have to. This part can be labor-intensive, but hauling in new dirt to fill your beds is a one-time job versus tilling year after year.  We plan to top off each year with a shallow layer of fresh compost, but that’s it.

This method works if you’re looking to plant right away, but with a little pre-planning in the fall, this method can be tweaked to have garden beds ready in the spring with little effort.  Basically, you will layer different kinds of organic matter, which will decompose over the winter into rich soil.  Kind of like making compost in situ without a bin. Look up  “lasagna garden” for more information.
How Your Kids Can Help
A No-Dig Garden makes it easy to involve the kids.  Laying out newspaper, hosing it down, and helping shovel loose compost is perfectly safe and doable for even small children; whereas, rototilling is not.  Consider this easy and greener route this year!
Check back tomorrow to learn about Companion Planting.  
Skip the pesticides and make your plants do the work for you! 
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About Loralie 251 Articles
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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