Posted on 23 September 2011 by

How To Make a Mulch Garden: The No-Till Garden

Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

The other day I went to an herb sale and sat in a class called “Mulch Gardening.”

The goal, it seemed, of this speaker was to convince everyone to get rid of his or her tillers.

How wonderful that would be.

A garden produced without fossil fuel and a low carbon footprint – what more could a gardener ask for when it comes to creating a garden space?

A mulch garden is very similar to a lasagna garden but without additional layers every year. The first layer is created by simply mowing the ground and letting the cut vegetation remain there. No bagging, raking, or weeding the area and no digging. Sounds great so far.

The second layer consists of cardboard or newspaper. The corrugated cardboard works great but if you cannot find cardboard or do not have enough newspaper will work. When using the newspaper remember to lay down at least five to six layers and do not forget to only use black and white newspaper. While the instructor in this class felt that newspaper with some colored ink was fine, I still avoid the color. The reason behind this is the fact that colored ink contains toxic metals that can be transferred into the soil.

The third layer consists of well-seasoned manure and/or compost. Do not use green manure unless the garden bed is going to set empty for at least one year.

The last layer consists of mulch. This layer can be a tricky one even though it seems simple. Mulch, by definition for this project, consists of green leaves, brown leaves, hay, straw, sawdust, grass clippings, and wood chips. If the mulch you use is green in color, mix it with compost or well-seasoned manure. The reason behind this is that anything that is green is high in nitrogen and without a carbon source or brown material the carbon to nitrogen ratio will be off. If the mulch is brown in color, then mix in grass clippings.

Once these layers are completed, let the mulch bed set through the fall and winter. At this point the mulch garden should be about 12 inches height. Do not worry about this height because as the mulch garden decomposes the stature will quickly reduce.

When spring arrives, simply move the mulch and compost to the side. Cut the cardboard underneath and plant. Once the plants are in the ground, move the compost and mulch back over the area and water in. While it is stated that this type of soil preparation does not require supplemental water, I believe that the plants need to be watered into their new home.

The only thing that will need to be done to the mulch garden in the fall is to add an additional 1-inch of mulch. This addition will need to occur every year there after.

This approach is great for anyone who does not own a tiller, does not want to use a tiller, or cannot disturb his or her soil.

So until we blog again, soil is the basis of all life and in doing so we should all mulch garden our way to a better world.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments