I (basically) stopped weeding thanks to this game-changing gardening method; Tilling is out. ‘No dig’ is in.
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- Carla Capalbo
- May 19 2023
- Word count
- 1477 words
We do something similar for gardens in commercial landscaping using landscape fabric underneath bark mulch or gravel. So I always wondered why people never seemed to use a similar technique for vegetables gardens as well. However, as it turns out, they do... but it seems pretty uncommon, and this is the first time I've heard about this technique.
I really like the idea they had of using cardboard instead of landscape fabric as the weed barrier though, since it's cheap and biodegradable. And in a garden where you might shift plant locations yearly it makes more sense to use cardboard since it would be much easier to get through it to plant something new, and it also breaks down relatively quickly. Whereas landscape fabric usually has to be cut with a blade in order to plant something new through it, and can remain intact for a very long time (esp the thick, high-grade commercial stuff). Although it should be noted that there are actually biodegradable landscape fabrics as well. They're much more expensive than cardboard would be, but usually still designed to last at least a few years before breaking down and needing to be replaced.
Horticulturalists generally discourage the use of newspaper, cardboard, or landscape fabric as a mulch because it stops gas and water exchange into the soil leading to poorer soil. Ideally 4" of coarse mulch like arborist wood chips should be used instead.
We regularly use landscape fabric in our home garden to kill off particularly weedy areas. Back in the days when I had fruit bushes they were always surrounded by fabric with bark over the top. Our raised vegetable beds get covered in old rubber flooring over the winter (or fallow summers) to suppress weeds. Bindweed, brambles and nettles are a constant battle, especially as we leave the end few metres of our garden wild to encourage insects and provide habitat.
Definitely going to be looking into cardboard now though, especially as my main construction project this year is permanent compost bins so we will be able to generate decent amounts of compost. We already use bokashi so all food waste can eventually be composted. It's not like we don't have tonnes of cardboard delivered to the house every week from all the internet shopping (although the kid is getting into makedo so there will be competition from there..)
Cardboard might actually be a nearly-perfect solution. I'm no gardening expert, but from what I understand, making compost usually requires a mix of both organic and inorganic materials. When the cardboard breaks down it becomes food for the bacteria and creatures in the soil. Depending on what exactly it's made of, biodegradable landscaping fabric might not be quite as ideal for the application.
I am not much of a gardener - I don't have the patience or the land for it - but I'd be interested in reading more about how this technique works.
Maybe you're thinking of compost requiring "browns" and "greens"? Unless you're adding synthetic fertilizers to your compost--something not generally necessary--compost is made only of organic materials. Generally speaking, anything organic can be composted. But you need to mix "browns"--materials heavy in carbons (and more technically, those with a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of greater than 30:1)--with "greens"--materials heavier in nitrogen (with a C:N ratio less than or equal to 30:1)--to make compost. Maybe this is what you're thinking about? Cardboard is mostly an organic material, but pretty firmly a "brown."
Sorry to come out of nowhere to offer this correction, but Tildes so rarely touches on anything I know anything about, so I couldn't resist!
By all means correct me. As I was writing the word “inorganic” I noted the silent alarms going off in my head.
The chap whose advice the author is following has a pretty comprehensive FAQ on their site:
As well as a YouTube channel:
Ah, it wasn't until I read this that I realized this is basically the same thing as no-till farming, which I remember first reading about roughly 10 years ago.
It's kind of obvious in retrospect, but I'm famously slow at recognizing things that should be obvious.
I've used "lasagna gardening" before, which is a similar, slightly more involved no-till method suitable for smaller areas. It's a good middle-ground solution when you don't have great soil, but aren't ready for the investment and effort involved with building raised beds.
I'll note that there are weeds capable of growing through any thickness of biodegradable material you put down (e.g. goutweed, comfrey), and you're still going to contend with whatever weed seeds might be airborne or resident in your compost.
Another note: No-till/No-dig beds still need crop rotation to reduce disease risks. Tomato/pepper/potato beds shouldn't be reused for anything in those families for at least 2 years if possible. I tried to reuse tomato beds with only one year of rest - lost the whole planting to rampant early and late blight with another potential six weeks of fruiting time left.
I read it as stopped wedding lol
Sorry bae. new gardening method just dropped!
Where's the hoe?