My grandmother and mother are probably shaking their heads in heaven at my garden. I've broke the traditional garden rules in the past few years. I want to share why you should put a layer of mulch on your gardens this fall instead of turning the soil over before putting it to bed for the year. (Be sure to check out my Garden Ideas page for all our garden adventures)
Deep Mulch Method
In 2014 we moved to a new house and suddenly I had a HUGE garden plot. A large garden was really a new thing for me (and a bit overwhelming).
In our previous home we had to do a crowded kind of garden because of limited space. In my garden research I stumbled across the Deep Mulch Method and found Ruth Stout’s No Work Garden Book.
I loved her sassy writing style and down to earth advice about how to make gardening easier! I love EASY and simple.
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Amazing benefits of the deep mulch method!
- Cut weeding time
- Reduce TIME spent watering
- Reduce AMOUNT of water needed
- Soil is amended as the hay breaks down and adds nutrients back to the dirt
- Gardening is “fun” again instead of a chore
I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. Ruth Stout
How to get started with the Deep Mulch Method
FALL is the best time to start
Add 8-10 inches of leaves, hay or straw on top of your garden. Don't till or disturb the soil. Ask your neighbors for their leaves—they will love you! Just pile it on.
**2017 update. We've switched to just grass clippings from our yard(we have 4 acres we mow). The leaves take a long time to break down and the hay gave us too many weeds. Both of these still work we just prefer the grass clippings!
That’s it. If your garden is large this can actually be quite the workout but it’s simple work. Old hay is great! Often you can get it for free in the fall as the farmers are cleaning out their barns.
- Be careful of the mold and dust—wearing a mast is not a bad idea.
- Be careful about the hay or straw you use. Herbicides in your materials can affect how your garden grows next year. I’ve not had any trouble with this but I know that others have had problems.
SPRING is a great time to start but might be a little more challenging
The weeds will be growing at a faster rate and are harder to get ahead of in the spring but it can still be done! Layer 8-10 inches of hay or straw over the top of your garden dirt. Pull the hay back from the places that you will be planting. As your seedlings or plants grow larger pull the hay back up close to the plant to keep weeds from invading!
Nature loves a bare patch of dirt!
Maintaining your garden is the same as the initial method. Keep adding the mulch material as you have bare or thinned out spots appear.
Our Deep Mulch Experience
I actually used the deep mulch method before I knew that's what it was called. In my crowded garden, I put down grass clippings in the rows where I walked each spring. It kept the weeds back and that made for a no work garden.
- Moved in 2013 to new house.
- We tilled in the spring. We just planted pumpkins this year because we were experimenting with square foot gardens. In the fall we layered on the leaves.
- Time to lay down 8-10 inches of hay. The first picture shows how it looked after the winter layer of leaves. Not too many weeds popping up! The second picture is in the spring after we put out the hay.
- We had a super wet spring but the garden plants still grew in the sodden wet soil--just a little slower than we wanted. Weeds were few and easily pulled up. We didn’t need to add much water in August because of our wet spring. In the fall, I had a pesky hip giving me problems so we didn’t any mulch down. Much to my sadness in 2016.
- In the spring I was still moving slow after a December surgery but over the course of a couple of months we covered the garden with more hay. I battled MANY more weeds this year because we skipped the fall covering. I would not have had to put this layer down at all if we'd been able to put hay on the bare spots in the fall.
- Currently I'm working my way through the last hay bale that we have to put 8-10 inches down again. I'm realizing how out of shape I am but it's great to be out in the garden working towards an easier time in the spring!
Have you tried deep mulch for your garden? I'd love to hear your story and how it has/hasn't worked for you!
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