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Weedless Gardening

Weedless GardeningWeedless Gardening by Lee Reich is another one of those books that made me say, "If only I'd read this two years ago, I wouldn't have had to read a dozen books and try out half a dozen methods on the ground to learn that stuff!"  Then I remembered how much I love to read and experiment, and am glad I saved Lee Reich's book for a day when it would help me streamline my operation rather than giving me a template to copy.

Lee Reich sums up his gardening method with four simple factors

  1. Minimize soil disruption --- Don't till or dig.
  2. Protect the soil surface --- Keep a constant mulch or crop cover.
  3. Avoid soil compaction --- Walk on designated paths
  4. Use drip irrigation

Although our garden operates better with pulsating sprinklers than with drip irrigation, I'm completely in favor of Lee Reich's other three points.  As he explains, keeping the soil surface mulched and the soil structure intact has a heaping handful of benefits, including:

  • Fewer weeds --- Tilling exposes seeds below the surface to light and air, which tempts them to sprout.  If you don't till and do keep the soil surface mulched, the seedbank of weeds that is inevitably found in all soil will sit in a dormant state and leave you alone.
  • More moisture --- When you till, you disrupt the structure of the soil, which makes it harder for water to move up and sideways by capillary action.  As a result, you have to water often or keep the roots of your plants dipping into the groundwater to prevent your crops from wilting.  No-till soil develops channels that pull water up from below to hydrate your plants.
  • Earlier spring planting --- It's tough to put in a spring garden if you have to wait until the ground is dry enough to till.  With a no-till garden, you can plant as early as you want.
  • Protection from erosion and crusting --- Heavy rain pounding into bare soil is bad news.  If the water doesn't carry your precious topsoil away, it will break up the soil particles and form a crust on the surface that prevents future rain from infiltrating.  A heavy mulch protects the soil surface from the problematic effects of heavy rain, as well as mitigating summer temperatures, slowing evaporation, and allowing more water to soak into the surface without running off.
  • Decline of organic matter in a prairie after tillingMore organic matter --- One of the best parts of the book is this amazing graph which shows how the organic matter in prairie soil stayed steady at 5% until the land was plowed.  During the first decade of conventional farming, the soil lost 40% of its organic matter, and by the third decade it had lost another 20%.  When you till soil, extra air comes in contact with soil particles and sends the decomposing microorganisms into a flurry of activity.  They break down the organic matter quickly, with the advantage that some instantly available nutrients are produced for that year's crops.  However, most of the nutrients in the organic matter are burned too quickly and turn into gases that leave the soil forever.  We all know that organic matter is key to good soil, so any method that burns through 40% of your soil's organic matter in a decade is bad news.

I assume you're all completely sold by now on Lee Reich's weedless gardening method, so I'll spend the rest of this lunchtime series getting down to the nitty gritty.

Fund your journey back to the land with Microbusiness Independence.



This post is part of our Lee Reich's Weedless Gardening lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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extra air comes in contact with soil particles and sends the decomposing microorganisms into a flurry of activity. They break down the organic matter quickly, with the advantage that some instantly available nutrients are produced for that year's crops. However, most of the nutrients in the organic matter are burned too quickly and turn into gases that leave the soil forever.

i hadn't heard it put quite like that before...modern agriculture...just another one of humanity's forays into "efficicency" from which we must beat a hasty retreat. we got our work cut out for us in the 21st century.

Comment by J Tue Nov 23 01:50:08 2010
I'd never heard it put exactly that way before either, and it made a lot of sense.
Comment by anna Tue Nov 23 08:59:26 2010