Except for pulling an occasional weed from the squares, a carpet-based garden mulch requires little care. And your plants will thrive.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
If you're young and lazy, old and feeble, or just plain busy, you can reap a rich garden harvest on slim
expenditures of time and physical exertion by putting a rug
in your produce patch at garden mulch. What's more, this gardening method
requires no tilling of the soil, no cultivating, no weeding,
and no machinery in the form of tractors or gas powered
tillers. The technique will allow you in a matter of
hours to start a vegetable plot that will literally
maintain itself, even on tough sod. Only the fall frosts
will put an end to such a garden's unattended productivity.
Most of the few things you'll need for this "no work" way
of gardening can be found at residential curbsides on
rubbish disposal days or in the town dump: one or more
discarded rugs, a knife, a spade, a wheelbarrow
and—if it's available—some compost or manure.
Spread the carpet or carpets bottom-side-up on your garden
site in the fall or at least a month before planting time
in the spring. The covering will soon choke out all the
grass and weeds beneath it, eliminating the need to plow or
till the soil.
When you're ready to plant, cut one-foot squares from the
rug. For tomatoes, space the squares
three feet apart in rows three feet apart. Separate the
planting holes by two feet in each direction for green
peppers, cucumbers and cantaloupes. Remember to leave a
broad margin of carpet around the edges on which the
cucumber, melon and other vines may spread.
Place your wheelbarrow near each freshly-cut-out square and
dig a 15" deep hole at every location. Dump the
soil into the barrow, mix it 50-50 with manure or compost,
and fill each excavation with the mixture. Be sure to tamp
all but the last four inches of the soil-compost
combination well as you refill the holes. This will prevent
later settling that might leave your plants sitting in
depressions. New plants form poor root systems in compacted
soil, however, so the top four-inch layer of each little
plot must be left loose to allow each plant to establish
itself quickly and vigorously.
You're now ready to place cucumber or melon seeds or pepper
or tomato sets in each location. Water well after
planting. Except for pulling an occasional weed from the
squares, that's it until harvest time.
Your garden will need no more watering; the rug allows
rain to seep through its weave, then retains the moisture
by protecting the soil from the sun as it retards
evaporation. Insect pests mostly avoid a carpeted vegetable
patch because there are no weeds or loose soil for them to
hide in. You won't even need to stake the tomatoes since
they'll be lying on a clean surface with no dirt to blemish
them. Picking your produce in even the rainiest weather
will be a mud-free task.
I've found these scavenged floor coverings to be far
superior to the newly-popular plastic sheet mulches. The
rugs admit rather than repel rainwater, need no weights to
hold them down, cost nothing, and (assuming they're wool or
cotton) decompose after a few seasons to provide a garden
with valuable organic matter.
Once started, a carpeted garden cares little if you're
present. We've taken long trips during the growing season
and returned to ours to harvest ripe produce that had done
splendidly with no care at all. And when we stay at
home, I can now squander the long hours I used to spend on
garden drudgery. In my more than 50 years of raising home
vegetables, I've yet to find an easier, more efficient way
to produce a yearly crop of fresh-grown food.