Organic Gardening Tips: Mulching, Raised Beds and Cold Frames

Save time and money while growing your own food with these ideas for rich soil in raisied beds and vertical gardening tips.

| March/April 1974

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    Compost is separated into dry and wet containers.
  • Deep Mulch Garden
    This cold frame was constructed of cement blocks.

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  • Deep Mulch Garden

With a bit of know-how, some planning, a few simple skills and very little cash outlay, you can feast on organically grown produce from your own garden all year long. If you really want to live off the land, you'll be glad to know that there are many tricks and shortcuts to save you time, backbreaking labor and hard-to-come by cash.

Our own gardening method, developed from personal experience, eliminates most of the hard work usually associated with a vegetable patch once the system is set in motion and the remaining chores are scattered fairly evenly throughout the year with few peaks of high activity. In addition, this program is so flexible that it can be started during the spring, summer, winter or fall any time you want to begin.

Gardening Mulch

Here's the basis of our gardening method: Cover the entire surface of your plot with about four inches of whatever organic mulching material is cheap and readily available. Simple as this sounds, it's really the most difficult part of the program because, initially at least, it calls for an amazing quantity of mulch. Even in our 6-year-old, 50-by-60-foot garden, we still add over 1,000 bushels of ground leaves and 5 bales of hay each year.

If you start your project in the summer, grass clippings from all available sources make an excellent beginning. Even weeds, if put through a grinder or run over, back and forth, with the power mower, are good material. Don't worry about the seeds of these pests coming up in your garden: If the surface is covered deeply enough, they won't. In fact, one benefit of the deep-mulch-no-plow system is that only a little weeding is needed about twice a year, to get rid of unwanted plants that grow from bird-carried seeds. We just pull the intruders and let them fall to become part of the soil's mulch covering.

On the other hand, an autumn start for your program gives you the advantage of all those lovely leaves, free for the using. Many towns and villages now ban the burning of yard wastes, which they collect and grind instead. Such communities will usually give away large amounts of shredded leaves and wood chips on request.

We grind our own leaves in late October and spread them to a depth of about four inches over the entire garden area. then we top this layer with about two inches of salt marsh hay. Inland, farmers often have bales of spoiled hay which can be bought very cheaply (or even obtained free for the hauling).

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