Imagine growing vegetables and flowers without tilling or hoeing every year. Well that is exactly how Mike and Judy Cunningham grow their plants at Country Gardens Farm located at 2050 Hwy 154 in Newnan. Mike was the speaker, Monday evening at the April 23rd meeting of the Crossroads Garden Club. His presentation explained the basics of "No Till Gardening."
This gardening technique begins with preparing permanent raised beds, approximately four feet wide and six to ten inches in height. This is accomplished by shoveling the dirt onto the row from the walkway in between the rows. Next, Mike and Judy lay Kraft paper on top which they buy from a local seed store (These are bought in rolls and spread end to end to cover the row like wrapping a present). Then they lay a thick layer of mulch on top to keep out the weeds. They use regular wheat straw for their mulching material.
Above is a picture of carrots and daikon radishes grown using this gardening method. Wow!
Drip irrigation is used to water their rows on top or in ground depending on how previous rows were made. I bought 200 feet of drip hose earlier this year at the local dollar store that we plan to use in our garden. Drip irrigation saves water and applies moisture to the roots not the fruit eliminating fungus to develop on both.
Pictured above is a young bok choy plant in Mike and Judy's garden. Another trick they use to keep weeds out is to lay landscape fabric in the walkways between the rows. Other materials to substitute is cardboard (cheap and effective).
You may ask what are the benefits to such a way to garden? Mike explained it so perfectly. Tilling disrupts the microorganisms in the soil. Also, it disrupts one of gardening's best friends, the earthworm. We don't see everything going on underground even though there is a lot going on that effects our above ground efforts to grow plants.
As seen above, "It's All About the Soil." Mike and Judy, don't waste discarded plants or fruit, but compost to add back the nutrients to their garden. This includes not pulling up spent plants in their permanent rows, but cutting them off at the crown and letting the old roots compost in the row. I know the worms love it! Even their animal manure goes back to the garden.
Look at all the vegetables they grew for the market. Double Wow!
"Cock-a doodle-doo," if you use the "No Tilling Gardening" method you'll be able to sleep longer and work less. This prize rooster lives at Country Garden Farms. If you would like to visit or need more information about the farm, go to www.countrygardensfarm.com.
Happy Gardening 2012!
--posted by Wilma Smith