Stout's No-Work Gardening Method Works

This no-work gardening method by Ruth Stout, author of No-Work Garden Book, advises using heavy layers of mulch in the garden to smother weeds and retain moisture in the soil.
By Jane Wilson
August/September 2008
Add to My MSN

Ruth Stout's no-work gardening method recommends using heavy mulch to maintain a weedless garden.
Photo by Gardenworks

Content Tools

Related Content

How Big is Your Water Footprint?

Explore ways to reduce both your direct and indirect water footprint. Reducing your water footprint ...

Obama Approves Substantial Coal Mining Expansion

Change we can believe in? The Obama administration paves the way for more than 300,000 megawatts of ...

Barebones Welcomes You to the Outdoors

Barebones strives to make the experience of outdoor recreation and hobbies a priority.

The Two Kinds of People

Non-gardeners and gardeners are very, very different creatures.

The No-Work Gardening Method suggests using heavy mulch in your garden to retain water and discourage weeds.

No-Work Gardening Method

Sometimes living simply is, well, more complicated than you expect. In our first six months of living on a farm, one of our biggest challenges turned out to be our overwhelming success.

During breakfast one day last spring, I skimmed the late Ruth Stout’s classic No-Work Garden Book. Stout advises putting down a deep mulch to keep out weeds and hold in moisture. Decaying mulch also fertilizes, so it’s perfect for organic gardening. My husband was skeptical, but he quickly warmed to Stout’s strategy. Why invite work when a “no-work” strategy is available? We spent the rest of the day covering the freshly tilled garden with straw salvaged from our defunct hog barn.

Tomatoes were at the top of our garden wish list. I bought plants for their names — an ‘Early Girl’ to get us off to a good start and a ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Lemon Boy’ to keep her company. Remembering how much we had enjoyed eating heirlooms from an organic farmers market last year, I also got a ‘Black Krim’ and a ‘Brandywine.’

Thanks to Ruth Stout, little garden maintenance was required. By mid-July we had our first tomato. Then the tomatoes started exploding off the vines. Every day or two, we picked dozens of tomatoes. I used tomatoes in BLTs, salads, omelets and ratatouille. I froze them whole and gave them away by the bagful. By the second week in August, the deep freeze was nearly full and the tomatoes were coming on faster than ever.

To conserve space, I made sauce. I peeled tomatoes and threw them whole into the pot with whatever flavorings I had. Then I let the pot simmer for hours until its contents were rich, thick and dark red.

Whether you would find it better than commercial sauce, I couldn’t say. Frankly, it is not “simpler” to make than opening a jar that has predictable, consistent contents. On the other hand, last winter when it was wicked cold and we could only dream of the smell of a perfectly ripened tomato, I pulled a quart of tomato sauce from the freezer and was completely reconciled to our overwhelming success.

— Jane Wilson
Hardin, Missouri

For more about Stout’s gardening method, read the article Ruth Stout’s System for Gardening, and to “cope” with this summer’s tomato successes, see How to Dry and Freeze Tomatoes. — MOTHER

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.