The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Experiments with no-till raised beds

Building up a raised bed with weedsI've been perfecting my raised bed technique for a while now, and last week I added a new twist.  For those of you who haven't been reading along, I make wall-less raised beds for my vegetable garden by mounding up topsoil, then I mow the aisle between beds as lawn.  This method works extremely well in established garden areas, but requires tilling the first time the beds are established.

This spring, I made a few new beds without tilling the ground, by piling old asparagus and and flower stalks on some paper and then adding a little topsoil.  This method worked well too, especially since a few of the asparagus seeds came up and started to grow.

My newest experiment, shown here, is meant to increase the height of some established raised beds without disturbing the grassy aisles.  I tossed several wheelbarrow loads of seedless weeds onto beds which were currently bare, to be replanted with peas in a month.  I'm hoping this will be a no-till version of a cover crop --- I love the idea of cover crops, but don't like the necessity to till the plants into the soil.

The question is whether the weeds will die down into a nice mulch so quickly.  I suspect they will since I made several raised beds this way a couple of months ago, planted comfrey into them a week or two later, and watched the comfrey take off.  In a worst case scenario, I can always remove the dead weeds when I plant the peas.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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