With Joseph gone doing his trucking job and me raising two kids here in the homestead alone most of the time, I am having to rethink how to have a family garden. It has to be something that I can manage completely on my own. I found a blog post about a No–Dig Garden that is very easy. Once the garden beds are created, your work is nearly done. The weeding is minimal, especially if you use mulch around the plants. All organic materials means that each season you only have to add some more fertlizer or ammend the soil before planting again. This is easily done. Once your garden is finished for the season, add more compost or manure, cover with a layer of mulch, and let the garden beds rest until spring.
I am going to use cinder blocks to form the garden beds. These will not have mortar but simply stacked 2 rows tall. The cavities of the blocks will contain rocks in the lower level and planting mix in the top level. The cavities can be planted with flowers or herbs. Another option would be to add a length of pipe in the corners and center blocks that are slightly taller than the cinder blocks. These will be useful for forming a hoop cover. To make the cover, take a length of off and bend it into a curve. Place one end into a pipe, forming the curve over your garden bed. You can also use these pipes for placing a trellis along the side for climbing plants or make a taller canopy to provide shade when necessary.
The boxes are very easy to construct. Place 2 layers of cardboard under the garden bed to prevent growth of vegetation from under the bed. Stack your cinder blocks to form the sides. Next, place alternating layers of straw, manure, and planting mix into the beds. You want it several inches above the bed. After about 2 weeks, the materials will have settled down to the top of the bed.
If you want the material to hold moisture better, use peat moss as one of the top layers. I generally will mix a 50/50 mixture of potting mix and peat moss, which works great here in the southwest where temps reach over 100°F in summer.
You can plant right away after filling the garden beds or wait until the soil mixture settles down into the garden bed. Once planted, add mulch to further cut down on moisture loss and weeding.
I can”t wait to get my new garden area set up. The beauty of this method is that I can move the garden to another location easily. Just dismantle the beds, set up in the new area, then refill the beds reusing the soil materials. All the straw used breaks down and gives you compost. You are, in essence, building and planting your garden in a contained compost bin.
During the winter, I will be able to add the wood ash from our wood stove to the garden beds to add more nutrients to the soil. In spring, I just have to turn the soil and I am ready to plant, especially if I have added the additional manure to the garden beds at the end of growing season the previous year.
I can’t wait to get started. This is going to make gardening so much easier for me to manage this year. I plan to start with 2 large or 4-6 small beds first. I can expand later if needed.