by Rachel Gill
Here’s a scary story to tell around the campfire this summer: Almost half of the world’s fertile soil has disappeared in the last 50 years.
While the answer to this environmental issue does not lie solely in the average backyard garden, every small effort helps so today we are going to discuss why lazy gardening is the key to healthier soil.
Tilling soil loosens and removes plant matter. Bare, exposed soil is more likely to be eroded by wind and water.
No-till gardening is not a new concept. Mother Nature has been doing it from the beginning of time!
As I get older and more rickety, I am experimenting with different techniques that will allow me to garden well into my 90s. That’s another 50 years, so I need to be as easy on my beautiful aging body as possible. The less digging and turning we need to do, the better. Think about the forest. Leaves fall, plants die, tree branches decompose, layers of rich organic matter pile on and break down and life just continues on richer for the nutrients. Why are we so obsessed with clean and perfect gardens? Why do we rake our leaves and throw them to the curb? Do you have any idea how valuable leaf mold is? You’re tossing garden gold.
When we till, we are disrupting the natural concentration of bacteria, earthworms and fungi in the soil and, if nothing else, you could hurt your back. All that digging will also aggravate your severely arthritic hands. Just me? Fine. Why do you want to work so hard? When you practice no-till gardening, soil organisms can thrive undisturbed allowing for a more natural balance between pests and their predators. When in doubt, look to the forest. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing.
When amending your soil, add about 4-6″ of compost or well-rotted manure, then add 2″ of mulch (woodchips, leaves, straw). Do not mix the layers. When you plant your seedlings, push aside the mulch and plant in the soil beneath. The purpose of the mulch is to slow down evaporation of water, protect soil from erosion and suppress weeds. As the mulch breaks down, it will improve soil structure without the need to dig.
So, when you feel the urge to start turning and digging, ask yourself, “What would Mother Nature do?” and then just do that.
Rachel Gill is a photographer and an avid gardener living in Kars, ON. In addition to selling seedlings and fruit/vegetable baskets, she offers helpful and hilarious advice on her Facebook page “How Does Your Garden Grow?”