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Vermont Garden Journal: Getting Deep Into No-Dig Gardening

The idea behind No-Dig Gardening is to retire the tiller and allow the natural soil structure to rejuvenate and have a more productive garden with less hard work.
Alexlukin
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The idea behind No-Dig Gardening is to retire the tiller and allow the natural soil structure to rejuvenate and have a more productive garden with less hard work.

I'm starting to work on a new book that won't be out until 2020. It's on No-Dig Gardening, a topic that I've been playing around with in my vegetable and annual flower gardens for years. I'm excited to dive deeper into it. I'm rereading the classic No-Work Gardening by Ruth Stout, checking out No-Dig Gardening experts on Youtube and refreshing my understanding of some permaculture techniques.

The idea behind No-Dig Gardening is to retire the tiller and not dig your annual gardens each year. By not digging your raised beds or in-ground gardens you won't bring weed seeds to the surface to germinate. You will allow the natural soil structure and soil life to rejuvenate and have a more productive garden with less hard work.

No-Dig Gardening can be done a number of ways, but basically relies on compost. I've been adding a one-to-two inch thick layer of compost to my raised beds each spring but not working it into the soil. I often cut plants to the ground instead of pulling them out to not disrupt the soil structure. Based on the over abundance of produce I often have to freeze, can or give away, I think it's working. I also try to keep the soil covered with plant material or mulch. This was the key in Ruth Stout's book where she relied on heavy mulching to build soil fertility over time and stop weed growth. I'm layering lots of hay mulch in our open ground areas to try her method. Although the hay may have weed and grass seeds, because you're mulching eight-to-twelve inches deep and keeping the soil covered year round, the weed seeds won't have a chance to germinate.

Now for this week's tip: as you pull out spent bean, bolted lettuce and dying cucumber plants, sow seed or transplants of lettuce, radishes, beets and spinach in beds for a fall crop. Add compost before planting and protect tender seedlings with row covers until they get established.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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