How to Start a No-Till Garden in your Backyard

April 13, 2020

It's great to see so many planning to start a garden after this turbulent food season. Human beings are resilient, and so is Mother Earth. We've done quite a bit of damage to her between concrete, pesticides and tilling.

What? Yes, tilling is extremely harmful. In fact, by some accounts, it can be just as damaging or even worse than pesticide use. Even organic farmers utilize this destructive method for ease, although in the long run, it's not really easier. 

Put that tiller away, and prepare a long term garden bed simply with the method below! 

Why you don't want to till:   

     - Tilling actually stirs up weed seeds - bringing them to the surface. We don't need that! 
     - Tilling loosens up and compacts the soil, causing erosion, flooding, and soil loss. 
     - Tilling destroys microorganisms. This is possibly the most important aspect that the current farming model gets wrong.

The top soil educators know that we actually don't have a nutrient deficiency problem in the soil - we have a microorganism deficiency. You see, microorganisms like mycelium, fungi, bacteria, and a lot more we frankly do not know about yet are what turn those nutrients into usable food for the plants and us. Each dose of Roundup pesticide kills 50% of the microorganisms 

How to Start a No-Till Garden in your Backyard

Step 1: Smother the area with newspaper, plastic sheeting, or cardboard. 

Step 2: Add organic materials on top of your smothering material: straw, wood chips, leaves (amazing nutrients!). 

Step 3: Add mature compost. This isn't a requirement, but will definitely get your plants off to a great start. This isn't the fresh compost from your kitchen (but can be next year!)

How to Build your Own Compost

Compost is organic matter (think green plants) rich nutrients combined with structural (think brown plant material) components. This feeds your plants better than anything else, and is commonly referred to as "black gold."

Save your kitchen scraps (everything that isn't an animal product, although those will also decompose too, just taking a bit more time) and layer them with a brown material (grass clippings, leaves, cardboard, plant stems) in an enclosed bin, pallet bin, or simply a pile. Toss regularly, and keep layering! This will mature (typically taking about 6-9 months) into compost for your garden. 

Danielle Olson Jones

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