Tag Archives: no-till

How to Make a Lasagna Garden

Here in the Southeast, we can take advantage of relatively warm winter temperatures to create or expand gardens. One easy way to start a new plot is lasagna gardening or sheet composting. This method is entirely no-till, relatively easy, and great for building healthy soil.

Benefits of a Lasagna Garden

  • There’s no need for a rototiller.
  • You don’t need to start with good soil.
  • Lasagna gardens are full of beneficial fungus, microbes, and insects.
  • All you need is waste! You can find many materials for free or cheap.
  • You can start them in the fall or winter.

Designing Your Garden

One of the excellent features of lasagna gardening is that it’s simple to make any design you desire. There’s no need to stick to squares or rectangles for ease of tilling. Circular, keyhole, or irregularly shaped gardens look great.

You may want to layout your garden with some stakes and string, or you can just get started with the bottom layer.

Creating Layers

Typically, the first layer of a lasagna garden is cardboard or newspaper laid directly over the grass. However, you can make do without it if needed. Avoid any shiny cardboard or paper, like from magazines. If you have tough, spreading weeds like crabgrass, you may want to dig them out in a wide border under and outside the cardboard area.

Brown Materials

Next, you’ll add “brown” or carbon-rich materials, just like you would a compost pile. Brown materials include straw, hay, pine needles, shredded paper, woodchips, wood shavings, and dry leaves.

Green Materials

Then you’ll add a layer of “green” or nitrogen-rich materials. Green materials include grass clippings, livestock manure, vegetable scraps, seaweed, coffee grounds, and plant clippings.

Alternate between layers until the pile is at least roughly two feet tall. Don’t worry; it will shrink surprisingly quickly as the material begins to compost.

If you’d like to give your garden a little boost, you can also add a thin layer of compost to the top to help get things going.

Let it Rest

Now, it becomes mostly about waiting. Your new garden needs time to break down and become a thick layer of compost. Fall and winter are perfect for this in the Southeast. Winter rains will help keep it moist. If you decide to create a lasagna garden in the summer, you may need to water it occasionally to help it break down.

Planting

If you start a lasagna garden now, it should be ready to plant in spring. You can grow in a lasagna garden just as you would in a tilled garden. If the material doesn’t seem to have broken down completely, you can start with vegetables like greens, beans, and squash before planting any root crops or larger transplants. 

Maintenance

Throughout the growing season, you should continue to add mulch to your lasagna garden. This helps prevent weeds, hold moisture, and continue to build soil.

Creating a lasagna garden is a great fall or winter project for gardeners in the Southeast. Use waste to create healthy, productive soil!

Looking for another option? Check out How to Build a Hugelkultur Garden Bed.

Do Wood Chips Make Good Mulch?

I may never be able to say enough good things about mulch. It protects soil from erosion, adds nutrients, and so much more. Despite the growing interest in no-till gardening and permaculture, some people are still hesitant to use wood chips as mulch in their garden. They may not break down as quickly as other mulches but wood chips still have many benefits. 

Where to Find Wood Chips

One of the best things about wood chips is that you can often find them for free and you can be fairly certain that they’re free of chemicals, trash, and weed seeds. To locate free wood chips ask your town or city for the company that trims roadsides and power-lines. These companies are often looking for ways to get rid of the excess of wood chips they create. Sometimes if you live near where they’re cutting they’ll even deliver it to your yard for free. Alternatively, check with local landscaping companies and arborists as well as garden supply and feed stores. While colored bark mulches are usually pricey they may offer plain wood chips for a decent price. 

What About “Nitrogen Tie-Up”

For anyone unfamiliar, “nitrogen tie-up” is when the nitrogen in your soil is being used by microorganisms to break down carbon material (like wood chips) making it unavailable to plants for a time. However this doesn’t make wood chips bad, remember plants need carbon too! Some farmers also see other benefits of “nitrogen tie-up” like the fact that the nitrogen doesn’t leach out of the soil or too far down for plants to reach. If it seems like your wood chips are taking too long to break down or you’re seeing signs of nitrogen deficiency you can add amendments to boost your nitrogen levels and help your wood chips break down. Grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure, and soy meal are all great options depending on where you live and what you have available.

Moisture Control & Weed Suppression

Wood chips do an excellent job at helping to keep your soils evenly moist. Many people know that they help keep your soil from drying out which is very important in dry climates or for those without access to irrigation. However, fewer people are aware that wood chips can help with soggy soils too. Wood chips help absorb excess moisture and are a great way to add organic matter to heavy clay soils. Also worth noting is how a thick layer of wood chips can help suppress weeds and unlike black plastic, it will fully break down leaving you without clean up and a smaller environmental impact.

Wood Chips are Prime Habitat

Two important features in organic gardens are fungus and beneficial insects. Wood chips are an excellent way to encourage both of these. Many of the types of fungus in your garden that help break down organic material into usable nutrients for plants will thrive with the addition of wood chips. Some people, like awesome folks of Edible Acres, actually grow edible mushrooms like wine caps on the wood chips in their garden! Several insects like earthworms and predatory beetles also enjoy habitat created by wood chips. Earthworms like the moist soil and will feed on the wood chips as they break down and predatory beetles will use them as shelter as they feed on the harmful pests that attack garden plants. 

If you’re looking to add mulch to your garden this year consider wood chips. In most areas of the east coast, they’re readily available and can help you create healthier soils and a more productive garden. 

No-Till Permanent Beds & SESE at the Mother Earth News Fair

Less work, better production is every gardener’s dream. One method that can help you to achieve this dream is to use a minimal or no-till permanent bed system.

More Production

Permanent beds perform better because the soil is never compacted and rarely disturbed. By using no-till practices on permanent beds beneficial insects, microbes, and fungi are allowed to thrive in the soil making for healthier more productive plants.

The pathways between permanent beds also encourage beneficial insects. They can be mulched to provide habitat for species like predatory insects or cover cropped with something like white clover that can be kept fairly short and still attract pollinators. Additionally cover cropped pathways can be mowed and the clippings can be used to add organic matter to the beds.

Permanent beds especially with pathways in cover crop helps reduce erosion keeping more nutrients in the beds for your plants.

Less Work

Unless you’ve got one of those rototilling Fastline Tractors then is usually a very time consuming spring project. Obviously no-till agriculture eliminates this need but it also reduces the amount of space that you have to carefully maintain. Mulch or mow where you walk rather than worrying about keeping it weed free.

Permanent beds can also help you plan out plantings for easy rotation and maintenance. You can easily keep track of what was where each year and space plantings to allow for easy cultivation with hand tools like a wheel how or stirrup hoe. They also make it easier to set up drip irrigation systems which are more efficient than overhead watering.For make your work efficient you need to some agricultural stuff like ropes and many more,buy Maple Leaf Cotton Ropes from here.

Finally, they make it easier to integrate perennials and self sowing plants into your garden plan. These plants make productive low maintenance additions.

Less Money

Tillers can be a costly expense for farmers and gardeners alike. Avoiding the initial cost of a tiller plus the fuel that goes into running a it at least once a year is a great way to save money in the garden.

As permanent no-till beds also keep your beds healthier they’ll reduce the need for costly outside inputs.

Mother Earth News Fair

June 2-3 Southern Exposure will be putting on a few workshops at the Maryland Mother Earth News Fair! If you’re in the area be sure to check out SESE’s workshops for some excellent gardening advice.

Grow More, Work Less: Expert tips for your vegetable garden with Ira Wallace

Available in: Maryland – North Carolina

Maryland Time: Sunday – 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Stage: Heirloom Gardener Stage

Simple tips and techniques for adding self-sowing annual, perennial, and biennial vegetables to your garden. Learn how to save time and money in your edible landscape, permaculture beds, or any vegetable garden.

Sun Growing Common and Uncommon Greens for Summer Salads and More

Available in: Maryland – North Carolina

Maryland Time: Sunday – 1:00-1:30 p.m.

Stage: Heirloom Gardener Stage

Salad greens are some of the most satisfying plants a gardener can grow. What else can you sow a little of in a bare patch and start harvesting just four weeks later? If you’ve mastered the basic greens (such as romaine, leaf lettuces, and spinach) and you’re looking for something a little different, or if your salad patch looks a little peaked in mid-summer, Ira Wallace has a few adventurous ideas for you as well as tips, varieties, and timing to keep the ordinary greens coming. Learn about 10 out-of-the-ordinary greens to try this year, including some that bridge the mid-summer gap between the cool, prolific spring and fall salad seasons.

Turmeric and Ginger: Growing for medicinal and culinary use

Available in: Maryland – North Carolina

Maryland Time: Saturday – 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Stage: Mother Earth Living Stage

There’s nothing fresher than turmeric and ginger you grow yourself! Learn the fundamentals of planting turmeric and ginger for a bountiful harvest. Ann Codrington shares her tips and tricks to get the moisture, timing, and temperature just right for sprouting, and shows participants how to care for plants as they go through their natural phases of growth.

Hands-on: Seed-Cleaning Techniques and Tips  Irena Hollowell, Gryphon Corpus, and Sappho Heavey

Available in: Maryland

Maryland Time: Saturday – 11:30-12:30 p.m.

Stage: Hands-On Demonstrations

Irena Hollowell, Gryphon Corpus, and Sappho Heavey show you how to clean seeds you’ve harvested in your garden for good germination rates and shelf life. This workshop focuses on the threshing, winnowing, and screening of seeds that mature in dry pods or seedheads (such as beans, okra, and lettuce), and participants can try their own hand at winnowing. Hollowell also briefly touches on the fermentation of seeds that mature wet. These methods are applicable to seeds of flowers and herbs, as well as vegetables. Take home handouts and seed samples. Note: An extra pass is required for this workshop. Space is limited, get your passes today.

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