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

Time-saving no-till trick

Mulching with newspaper

This year, I'm using all of the experiments that I summed up in Small-Scale No-Till Gardening Basics to streamline our vegetable garden without ditching the biological imperative to keep the soil happy. To that end, I'm applying wet newspapers beneath straw wherever possible, which means all I have to do is weed the small area right Growing broccoli plantsaround the base of each plant rather than the whole bed before mulching.

While the method doesn't save any time in the short term, it does seem to reduce my need to weed dramatically over the course of the year. That said, if you live in a windy region and have relatively high raised beds, I'm not sure I'd recommend the trick. Last month's newspaper mulches blew all over the yard during what turned out to be the windiest month our farm has had in a decade. Hopefully the current lull will extend for long enough to let the paper meld to the soil below and the straw above, preventing my hard work from blowing away.

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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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Um, no slug issues?
Comment by Julie Whitmore Sat Apr 30 07:36:00 2016

I mulch my raised beds with about 2-4 inches of straw a la Ruth Stout. Most of the time, despite that thickness of straw, the plants just pop up through the straw and the wind, despite my living in what feels like a "wind tunnel", doesn't blow the straw away. Putting straw down less than 2 inches, however, usually means I have to run all over the garden picking up the straw that the wind has blown.

I haven't tried wet newspaper, but I just planted some fruit trees and have saved lots of cardboard, so I will be putting down the cardboard and then the straw on top to kill of any grass/weeds that will try to grow there.

Thank you for those ideas, by the way! :)

Comment by Nayan Sat Apr 30 11:09:29 2016
Julie --- We live in an extremely wet climate, mulch heavily, and have very few slug issues. I can only assume we get away with that because I really promote natural predators like frogs, toads, and turtles. For whatever reason, nope, we don't see very many slugs at all.
Comment by anna Sat Apr 30 15:06:53 2016
I've added a new step to my newspaper method this year....I run it through the paper shredder first....I was afraid the wind might be a problem but it's actually less of a problem than when the pages were whole....I also have less of a problem with ants building nests beneath it. The weeds are not entirely kept out but the reduction is at least 90%....
Comment by Letty Steckler Sat Apr 30 15:23:13 2016
Lettie Steckler, thanks for the idea! I have a whole slew of paper shredded which I was going to use as packing material when/if I start selling on Ebay again, but maybe using it in the garden makes more sense. It would stay out of the landfill anyhow. :)
Comment by Na'yan Sat Apr 30 17:41:20 2016

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