HLRGazette Archives

Relive some of our best stories.

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Garden Talk

E-mail Print PDF

"GardenTalk", a regular feature for The Gazette, brings to you the combined experience and expertise of Holly Lake's dedicated gardeners and others. A continuing focus will be subjects of interest to anyone who has ever bought a packet of seeds or dug a hole in the ground for a plant, as well as the dedicated and sharp-eyed observers of nature. "GardenTalk" will not only inform you each issue but solicits your ideas and personal gardening experiences which you may wish to pass on to others. The hope is that "GardenTalk" will enrich us all as well as help make Holly Lake even more beautiful.

NoDig Gardening

By Lucy Germany

Master Gardener/Wood County

If you are not a careful scanner of newspapers, you could be missing a lot of important information. Recently the Dallas Morning News printed an article on no-dig gardening which is right down the "couch potato" gardener's alley. The subject of the article—an American who picked up gardening lore by getting involved with organic gardening groups all over the world—says you should change your shovel and hoe for a wheelbarrow.

The wheelbarrow is the main character in this garden drama. He uses it to transport his four primary garden preparation ingredients—hay, newspapers, straw, and compost to the garden site. Water, of course, is the fifth important ingredient but it can't be carried in a wheelbarrow. The method used by this successful urban gardener is "layering"—he sets out on his 300 square foot garden patch, newspapers, hay, straw and compost. He stacks them in "lasagna like" layers, adding only a small amount of water and letting time and the elements—including earthworms and grubs— do their work.

He says gardening the old way with a rototiller, hoe and shovel depletes the soil, encourages weeds and calls for large amounts of both water and fertilizer.

He uses small amounts of both of the last two ingredients because they are not serious requirements in his layered agricultural domain. The developer of this gardening technique is Pat Marfisi who is a typical urban gardener using non-typical techniques. He has joined organic gardeners around the world but most recently brought home with him the layered method learned working with gardeners in Australia.

Is he successful? His garden produces enough food to feed three people daily.

Checking the "fine print" of his technique, reveals that he dusts his newspapers and hay with bone and blood meal to jump start the growth cycle. This plus a small amount of watering, takes care of all the necessary requirements for abundant crops. The process is one of decomposition of the layers which transforms them into a nutrient mixture much like compost. Since compost is one of the original ingredients in the layering, it is interesting that all turns into that one material—the one that ignites and sustains plant growth.

He says that no-dig is more efficient and water wise because once a plant has a ten to twelve inch root system, the layers of compost and straw keep moisture in the root areas. As the organic matter breaks down you continue layering the key ingredients and your garden stays healthy with a minimum of maintenance. He warns, however, that you still must fertilize from time to time because the continuous use of nitrogen by plants calls for additional applications of this ingredient from time to time (organic, of course).

Within two or three months of setting out the layers, the proper level of acidity or alkalinity will be established, resulting in bountiful harvests.

In his urban "no-digs", Mr. Marfisi raises huge amounts of swiss chard, lettuce, tomatoes, beets, collard greens , celery, and leeks.

A successful urban garden is not only a fun pastime but it's also a good way to introduce yourself to the neighbors. Knocking on the door with a sackful of fresh tomatoes and lettuce should earn you a permanent place on their party list.