Background and Some Details
Contact me if you want me to consult with you on no-till bed construction details. I could work with you to construct your 1st 2-3 beds then you could do the rest.
Kathryn and I installed this No-Till Market garden for two main reasons. 1)Reduce weeding labor from about 70% to 10% of our total gardening time and 2) quickly establish the soil food web so biology can grow the fertility – GROW YOUR OWN FERTILIZER – like nature does it. The goal was to get this garden naturally fully nutrient cycling.
This garden was 26 beds (50 ft long x31 inches wide per bed, 5-6inches deep of compost) with 17inch paths filled with woodchips (specifically ramial chipped wood). The paths were level with the beds. The planting area was about 3300sqft (not including paths).
The garden was built with a small 1/5 yard bucket front loader tractor (see photos) and the dump gator (side by side) in the photo. I dumped compost and wood chips into these buckets to move the material into position. Constructing two 50 foot beds/paths in 4-6hrs once I got my construction system worked out. It worked out best for me to build about 1-3 beds per week, depending on my other garden responsibilities that week. One bed alone is about is 80 5-gallon buckets or about five dump gator loads. Lifting down 80 buckets is a good amount of labor so spreading it over a few weeks helped out a lot to allow my body to recover. Each bed was about 2 cubic yards of compost. A 50ft path was about 40 5-gallon buckets.
We had some help building 7-10 of the beds. Our deepest appreciation and gratitude for all who helped and supported this project.
The main advantage of this method of bed construction was to almost eliminate the weeds – if the compost is weed free. 6″ deep of compost seemed to smoother most weeds except nut grass (nut sedge), Which we aggressively and regularly hand pulled which caused it to die off eventually. In retrospect I would have spent and extra $30-40 per bed to apply rolled packing cardboard because it is easy to install and will break down consistently. Using random cardboard pieces is problematic because it can bring in a verity of negative chemicals and breaks down at different rates. Plus installation of rolled packing cardboard is much easier.
These they of garden bed has an up front labor and material cost but the return is a no weed garden as long as all new weeds are pulled weekly and then monthly once the garden gets established. For warm season crops (tomato, pepper, squash…) you can keep the Fungi to Bacteria ratio at about 0.8 to 1 will also keep many weeds from germinating.
Click on a photo to enlarge and for a slide show.
Why Choose Us as your soil food web lab
Standard of Excellence
We are guided by the lab standards set by the Certified Laboratory Program produced by the Dr. Elaines’ Soil Food Web School. This school requires annual recertification.
We are here to answer any questions about the lab results we produce for you. We are here to help you grow successfully.
If you need more than just lab work to be successful with your growing projects we can refer you to others in the soil food web community who may be a good fit for your needs.