Create a No-Till Garden and Retire Your Tiller Forever
It is a wonderful feeling to discover a gardening hack that saves you time and effort without decreasing the health of your garden. Imagine the extra time you would have if you never tilled your garden again. Guess what? Not only can you save time with a no-till garden, you can improve the quality of your soil that way too!
My friend Shawna Coronado is a talented gardener, promoter of green lifestyles, and garden-hack pro. Shawna joins us today to share the details on how to create a no-till garden from her wonderful book 101 Organic Gardening Hacks. If you like this time-saving, soil-improving, organic gardening hack, you’ll love the other 100!
Retire Your Tiller
By Shawna Coronado
If you love your soil, stop flipping it over.
Sometimes the best way to improve something is to let it be. A no-till garden is a perfect example. And creating one also means less work for you. Imagine building a large garden without having to turn the soil over in your garden beds.
Turning soil kills the microbes living beneath the ground that contribute to a healthier root system by living symbiotically with your roots. There are billions of bacteria, millions of fungi, thousands of protozoa, and scores of other nematodes and organisms found in one small tablespoon of healthy soil. Hacking your garden soil with a few simple no-till tips can make for hugely successful growing because you keep those vital creatures alive and happy in your garden beds.
A no-till garden has other benefits. Because you are consistently smothering weeds with mulch or compost, they struggle to grow there, and an undisturbed, enriched soil requires far less fertilizer in order to support successful plants. The no-till technique works in almost any garden space and can help grow extremely healthy organic vegetables and herbs.
How to Create a No-Till Garden
Instead of turning your soil over for a garden, start by removing all of the grass, either by stripping the sod or smothering the grass (see Hack 79: “Kill Grass by Smothering It”).
- Put down a 2-inch layer of rotted manure or compost on top of the bare soil. Do not turn the soil over.
- Dig holes to plant your plants.
- Mulch the garden the first year with wood chips or another natural mulch, such as pine needles, rotted leaves, or straw.
- After the harvest at the end of the season, do not pull out the vegetable or herb plants by the root; cut their stems at the base of the soil and leave the roots in the ground to overwinter and eventually rot. Compost the cut plant matter.
- Next planting year, cover the garden with another 2-inch layer of compost.
- When planting new vegetables and herbs, only pull out roots from the previous year if they block an area for a new plant. Be sure to rotate the crop so that no plant from the previous season is planted in the same location in the current year.
- In your third planting year, follow the same practices, but add a layer of mulch instead of a layer of compost.
- In your fourth planting year, follow the same practices, but add a layer of soil instead of a layer of mulch.
- In the fifth planting year, follow the same practices, but add a layer of rotted manure instead of a layer of soil.
- In the sixth planting year, follow the same practices, but add a layer of compost instead of rotted manure.
- Continue every season layering up the compost, mulch, soil, and rotted manure without ever turning over the soil.
About the Author
Shawna Coronado is an author, columnist, blogger, photographer, and spokesperson for organic gardening, green lifestyle living, and culinary preparation who campaigns for social good. Shawna’s goal in authoring gardening and green lifestyle books is to promote a world initiative to encourage healthy and sustainable living. She was featured as a Chicago Tribune “Remarkable Woman” and speaks internationally on building community, simple urban garden living, and green lifestyle tips for the everyday person. Shawna lives in the western suburbs of Chicago where she has a famous front lawn vegetable garden. You can learn more about her at www.shawnacoronado.com.