Photo by: PublicDomainPictures
Everyone knows that gardening is hard work, but probably the most difficult task is in soil preparation. Not everyone has a tiller. It is an expensive investment, especially when you consider that you'll probably only use it once a year. Years ago, everyone tilled their garden sites every year. I would suggest doing this for a couple years if possible, until you have built the soil up into a nice, rich, organic compost. Some years, it is almost impossible to till because of the spring rains. If you til wet ground, it will only turn hard and clumpy. It is during times like this that you need a backup plan, one that will give you a good gardens soil without the backbreaking work of tilling or spading.
The best time to start your spring garden is in the fall, after you have raked the fallen leaves. After all, you need someplace to put those leaves. Do not throw the leaves away, or burn them. You will need them for your garden. If this is a new garden spot, mow the garden area at the lowest setting. Water this area thoroughly. You will be covering the garden with three layers or organic materials.
First Layer; Cardboard and Newspapers
Cover the soil with cardboard boxes or newspapers. These are the best, because they will break down into the soil. Prepare the cardboard boxes by taking them apart so they will lay flat on the ground. When using magazines or newspapers, take out the glossy pages, because they do not easily break down into the soil. Remove any plastic, tape, or staples because they do not decompose. Place the boxes or newspapers over the area that you just mowed on top of the weeds or plants. What is nice about using cardboard boxes or newspapers is that you don't have to pull or dig out the weeds first. The will die from lack of sunlight. As you lay the cardboard or newspapers over the soil, overlap them by 6 inches. The newspapers should be at least six pages thick. When the entire garden spot is covered with the dismantled boxes or newspapers, water the area again until the top cover is thoroughly soaked.
Second Layer; Organic Mulch
Pile some organic mulch over the boxes in a thick layer. This is the time to use those leaves that you raked from the yard. If you don't have enough leaves to cover the garden, use grass clippings or straw. Just make sure that the grass clippings you use have not been treated with an herbicide or pesticide because this can kill your plants. Hay is not recommended either, because weed seeds come with it.
Once again, water this layer down thoroughly.
Third Layer; Compost
Cover the mulch with a layer of compost or good top soil. Thoroughly wet the area again. For the best results, all layers combined should be at least 1 to 2 feet thick.
Keep this area watered until it snows or freezes hard. Now there is nothing left to do until spring. Use this time to work on what you want to grow in your garden.
In the spring,while everyone else is tilling and digging, you can begin planting. You will find your garden soil has changed. It is perfect for planting those vegetables. If the cardboard has not completely decomposed, just dig through it when planting. Through the months, the mulch will continue to break down, making your soil richer. Keep adding mulch over the soil through the growing season. This helps the soil retain moisture, eliminating the need to water so much.
So why chose this method for planting your next garden? There are several reasons. From the mulch, you are increasing the soils composition and adding essential nutrients. The worms and microorganisms have what they need to build up the soil and add important soil fungi. The carbon dependent nutrients in the soil are released slowly. Best of all, you don't have to wait for the soil to dry, or do any tilling or digging. Another advantage to this method is weed control. The weeds below the cardboard barrier will not come through. If any weeds do pop up, they will be easy to pull.