Gardening is hard work.
And it ‘s work that you need to keep doing every year. You need to till the soil, add amendments, and remove weeds from the garden.
But what if there was a way to avoid this? Can you grow a garden with least effort spent on amending the soil?
No-till gardening is exactly what you need. This method of gardening can help you get a wonderful garden if you have patience.
What is no-till gardening?
We know the traditional method of gardening recommends tilling the garden. This is used to break up the soil, kill the weeds, and mix in amendments.
The problem with this method is the tilling destroys fungal networks in the soil. It harms the beneficial organisms that reside in the soil.
No-till gardening is a method where you don’t till the soil. Rather you take the example of Mother Nature. And let it work things out itself.
Sure you do need to give it a helping hand. But the soil organisms do the most work of keeping the soil loose, healthy, and full of organic material.
You need to add amendments like compost, fertilizer, manure, vermiculite to keep the soil in good shape.
It’s a slow process though. It takes time to build soil good enough that it works for no-till gardening.
What are the benefits of no-till gardening?
Helps save your time
It’s hard work taking care of a garden. Especially if you have to till the soil and remove weeds.
That’s where no-till gardening can save you a lot of time and energy. You don’t need to till once the garden is set up.
There are fewer problems with weeds, pests, and diseases that you need to take care of.
Reduces the problem of weeds
You’re going to have to remove weeds from your garden. There are no two ways about it.
But no-till gardening can reduce this problem to an almost negligible level. Because you don’t till the garden, the dormant weed seeds remain dormant deep in the soil.
Some weeds that grow because of seeds dropped by birds or the wind are easy to take care of. The soil is healthy and loose so you can just pull them out.
Helps create a healthy soil
The best thing about no-till gardening is the balance it keeps in the soil ecosystem.
The organisms in the soil help dig tunnels that encourage aeration and drainage. This makes the soil healthy, loose, and friable.
The droppings of such organisms provide rich, organic matter to the soil as well as binds the soil together.
No-till gardening creates healthy soil with a balanced population of the soil organisms.
Helps save water
The healthy soil created with no-till gardening helps retain water while draining out excess.
The use of mulch in no-till gardening helps shade the soil. It prevents the fast draining of the water. It also avoids loss of water due to evaporation.
The soil can retain a good amount of water as needed by the roots. And it keeps the soil loose and friable.
How to prepare the garden for no-till gardening?
If you have a patch of land that you want to use for the no-till garden, you need to trim the grass on it. You need to remove large stones and debris.
Then you can till the soil to break it up. Don’t worry, you only need to do this one time at the start.
If you prefer, you can build a raised bed garden instead. This could be something that is 18 inches wide and 20 feet long. Allow 24 inches between rows so you have walking space to tend to the garden.
You can add a layer of compost and hay that is about 6 inches to the garden bed. And you can taper the soil to the edges.
Adding natural fertilizer
When starting the no-till garden, you can add natural fertilizer to the soil and prepare it for the future.
In the first year of no-till gardening, you could allow weeds to grow in the garden. Then every week you can chop the weeds and let them decompose into the soil.
The weeds and their roots would decompose and provide the essential nutrients to the organisms.
You could even grow and chop up herbs into the garden. These will add nutrients and enrich the soil.
At the end of the year, you can check the soil with a soil test. You can add any amendments as required after the soil test.
The more beneficial organisms in the soil the better the soil absorb amendments. So you need to spend less money and effort using amendments.
How to plant cover crops in the no-till garden?
There are several reasons why you should use cover crops for your no-till garden. You can plant the cover crops during the off-season like fall.
They help prevent weeds from growing in the garden. They protect the garden soil from erosion. And they add organic matter to the soil as they decompose.
You can use a non-grass plant like rye as the cover crop.
Once the growing season arrives, you can place a plastic sheet on the cover crops. After a few weeks, the cover crops will have decomposed into the soil.
Then your soil will be ready for starting seeds or for transplants.
How to mulch the no-till garden?
The mulching helps to replace the digging in your no-till garden.
Mulching will help shade the soil and protect its organisms from the heat. It helps avoid erosion of the soil when watering or after rains.
The mulch will regulate the soil temperature so it’s not too warm in the summer and not too cold in the winter. It also prevents weed seeds from sprouting and taking over your garden.
Once the mulch starts to decompose, it feeds rich, organic nutrients to the soil.
You can keep adding mulch every growing season so it keeps replenishing. Just make sure the mulch you use is free from weed seeds.
You can use materials like wood chips, dried leaves, grass clippings, hay, newspaper, or compost as mulch. Just make sure you don’t allow them to touch the stems of the plants.
How to plant in the no-till garden?
With a regular garden, you can till it to loosen the soil and avoid compaction. But with a no-till garden, you need to be careful not to walk over it.
The compaction can damage the beneficial organisms in the soil. It also affects the air and water pathways in the soil.
You need to make the garden beds permanent and pathways between them to avoid walking on the soil.
If the garden bed is more than 4 feet wide, you need to use a wooden board to access it without stepping in it. Turn the board occasionally to check for snails and slugs.
When ready to plant, you can use a digging fork and makes small holes in the garden bed.
This helps to dig up weeds, loosen the soil without disturbing the beneficial organisms or affecting the fungal networks.
You can plant the seeds or transplants in the holes that you created. When the plants are grown, you can cover the base with mulch.
Once you start growing plants, they will form roots that together protect the soil against wet and dry spells.
How to use crop rotation in the no-till garden?
No-till gardening can help you grow plants without spending a lot of time and energy. That’s possible once the garden is set up with good, healthy soil.
The problem with no-till gardening is that it can allow pests and diseases in the soil to persist. Because you’re not tilling the soil that makes them susceptible to air and the elements.
The solution to this problem is to use crop rotation. You keep changing the family of crops you grow in a particular garden bed every year.
This helps prevent the pests and diseases in the soil for one family of plants to affect the new ones that you grow. This is especially beneficial if you have a garden already affected by such pests and diseases.
No-till gardening is a great way to garden if you want to save time and energy in the long run.
But you do need to have patience when you start. It takes time to build up the soil to a good enough level.
If you’re looking to build your no-till garden, all you need to do is take that first step. Find out the plot where you want to build your garden.
Maybe it’s a patch of grass in your yard. Or maybe it’s a raised bed you can make. Start working on the plot to get it ready.
Your dream of a wonderful garden is well within your reach.