Saturday, September 14, 2013

Easy Changes to Make Your Garden Act More Like Nature

Gardening is a ton of work, back-breaking, tedious, sweaty work.  Right?  Actually, I am learning that the more I cooperate with nature, the less work I have to do!

I've been working on our little patch of land lately, and doing a ton of reading and dreaming about ways I can produce some food, improve the soil, and create some beauty here.  During this process, I have stumbled across permaculture, which is "permanent agriculture," designing self-sufficient, sustainable landscapes that can feed people, too!

There is so much wisdom in permaculture that goes against what conventional farming/gardening says.  And there is SO much that WORKS for me in my garden, that I have never read in a "gardening book".  So, although I am still a beginner, and I don't have an incredible, self-sufficient garden yet, I thought I'd share some of these new-to-me ideas that have been helpful already.  Maybe they will be helpful to you, too!

Tip #1: Get rid of bare earth

There is a very good reason people spend half their summers out in the hot sun, pulling weeds!  Nature abhors a vacuum.  If you have bare dirt hanging out in your garden, nature will try to fill it with whatever is handy.  Usually weeds.

So cover that bare dirt.  Traditional mulches like bark chips are effective.  If you really want to act natural, try growing some "living mulches" around your plants, like low-growing clovers (which supply nitrogen to the soil while they grow) or vetches.  Or try "composting in place" to mulch easily with spent plants (see #3).  Whatever you choose, most weed seeds won't be able to germinate and sprout as well if they are covered with an nice layer of organic matter.

Your soil will benefit from a nice mulch covering as well, if you choose an organic mulch (like bark chips, leaves, or straw) instead of an inorganic one (like rubber mulch, rocks, or landscape fabric).  All that organic matter on the surface will gradually decompose, adding nutrients to the soil below.  And all the little decomposition critters, like bacteria, fungi, and earthworms, will be attracted to your garden soil to help in the process.

Check out what "Mother Goose" at the Permaculture Visions Online Institute is doing with living mulch:

I originally created an uber-long post full of great tips, but it was a pain to read.  So I broke it up into more bite-size chunks.  The next tip will be Tip #2: Embrace (Some) Weeds.

Do you mulch your garden?  If so, have you noticed fewer weeds, or better moisture retention in the soil?  If you don't mulch, why not?

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