I tried Ruth Stout’s No Work Gardening method

Patty

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We lived in a very rural bush community in central Canada for about 20 or so years where it was mostly trees and very little good arable soil. The forest was mixed with lot of coniferous trees and almost pure sand over bedrock. The shallow soil held little to no moisture at all. The climate in central Canada is considered to be “cold” with an average of 161 frost free growing days. Yep - that’s only 4 months. Except for a few tough crops that can withstand the frost, most harvesting usually ends when the temperature drops to the freezing point.

I love to grow things and we wanted to have our own food as much as possible. So we built some raised beds and various container beds for our gardens. These worked out well enough. However, it was a lot of work keeping the weeds to a minimum and making sure everything got enough water during the dry periods.

When I discovered the Ruth Stout method, I was intrigued. It was definitely not the way my parents and grandparents gardened. Just put your seeds on top of the soil, and put hay/mulch in a deep layer on top of them. This new-to-me method looked like it would solve issues such as weeds and moisture retention too. Sounds simple, right?

I decided to try it for my potatoes and garlic. Following the method, I put my seed potatoes and garlic cloves on top of the ground instead of burying them. A friend gave us some of his old spoiled hay bales and we laid this hay about a foot deep over the beds. That was it - super easy for planting.

During the summer, we watched the potato plants push up through the hay, fill out and bloom just lovely. And the garlic had no problem poking up through the hay. We harvested plenty of delicious scapes from those garlic plants. We had to water a bit during August when there was no rain for about 3 weeks, but otherwise the hay kept the soil moist. By late fall, we checked the potatoes and they were doing great. In fact, the hay covering the plants provided insulation keeping them protected past the early frost days.

When we finally harvested, it was impressively easy. We just lifted up the hay which had composted considerably by then. There were our beautiful potatoes, loads of them just resting on the surface soil. It was the same for our garlic which grew quite large. Both the potatoes and garlic were pest free and did very well in the composting hay. After harvesting, we just left the hay on the bed to continue decomposing and feeding the soil.

Eventually, we used this method for tomatoes and a few other crops. It most definitely keeps almost all of the weeds out, and any that sprout just pull out easily. Very little work, harvesting is simple. And the composting hay/mulch keeps feeding the soil. It most certainly was and still is my favourite method of gardening, whether on raised beds or not.

No doubt many of you have used the Ruth Stout method or other similar no-work or no-till gardening techniques. And I know it is not the best method for all crops or for all conditions. It is one of a multitude of approaches and practices that help make gardening easier, more enjoyable and potentially more productive. I would love to hear about your experiences with these methods of making gardening easy.
 
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ClissAT

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Hi Patty, I loved your story of achievement! Its great when a plan comes together.
When I lived in another area of SE Queensland Australia, I used a similar method although I must say I didn't know it had a name!
Tue soil was deep, red and fertile. It leant itself to no-til gardening.
I made long mounds of horse manure which became worm farms/compost heaps and simply threw in seeds or burried the seed potatoes much as you did.
I never failed! I had no idea gardening could be hard work.

How I wish that method could work for me now. With advanced years comes a need to reduce the workload. Your Stout's method sounds like what older folks should be striving for.

Another method that can entail reduced energy input, (well for the humans anyway,) is the composting method using chooks to do the work. You throw down all the makings and leave the chooks to do the work. Then move the chooks along and use the freshly made compost to grow that season's crops.
Although in the system this guy uses, he shovels the compost away which is a lot of work.

 
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Patty

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The Chicken Compost method would be fantastic too! We did not have any chooks, but they would have been great for adding to the soil. My grandfather used to make a barrel of "tea" for his garden every year - made in a 45 gallon drum with a large cloth bag full of chicken manure in water. He would use that tea to water and fertilize his gardens. I have to admit, it did not smell pretty. However his gardens were amazing!
 

DTK

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My grandfather used to make "aromatic" ??? :) tea as well and used it in the garden. That brings back wonderful memories, but not so wonderful aroma .
 
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ClissAT

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That used to be the essence of traditional gardening.
Long before 'organic' became a 'thing'.
Weed and /or chook manure teas. Stinking to high heaven!
Composted garden materials along with kitchen waste and manure to heat it up.
All combined to make the soil far more health giving and productive than it has been for many years.
But then people decided they nolonger could put up with smell of odourus compounds so many municipalities banded natural gardening methods.
So was borne the chemical garden. Or in many cases no garden at all!
 
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DTK

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Bring back the simple days...even if they are smelly.
 

Cheryl Smyth

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Worm tea has no odor.
I love alpha tea for my rose bushes but stink to high heaven. After drenching bushes and two weeks later there is a large amount of new growth with buds!! Done this several times. Fall and spring time is recommended by American Rose Society
I was thinking about trying alpha bales for gardening this year. High in protein and hormones.
What do you think?
Not really cost effective but I am curious about return of crop production.
 
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Cheryl Smyth

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I watch an interview of her and husband. Did you know she mostly garden nake? She lived out in the country and she did not mingle with high Society.
 

GKW

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I watch an interview of her and husband. Did you know she mostly garden nake? She lived out in the country and she did not mingle with high Society.
Tried same but the neighbours didn't receive it well when hand pollinating the cucumbers. :censored:
 

Mary Playford

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We lived in a very rural bush community in central Canada for about 20 or so years where it was mostly trees and very little good arable soil. The forest was mixed with lot of coniferous trees and almost pure sand over bedrock. The shallow soil held little to no moisture at all. The climate in central Canada is considered to be “cold” with an average of 161 frost free growing days. Yep - that’s only 4 months. Except for a few tough crops that can withstand the frost, most harvesting usually ends when the temperature drops to the freezing point.

I love to grow things and we wanted to have our own food as much as possible. So we built some raised beds and various container beds for our gardens. These worked out well enough. However, it was a lot of work keeping the weeds to a minimum and making sure everything got enough water during the dry periods.

When I discovered the Ruth Stout method, I was intrigued. It was definitely not the way my parents and grandparents gardened. Just put your seeds on top of the soil, and put hay/mulch in a deep layer on top of them. This new-to-me method looked like it would solve issues such as weeds and moisture retention too. Sounds simple, right?

I decided to try it for my potatoes and garlic. Following the method, I put my seed potatoes and garlic cloves on top of the ground instead of burying them. A friend gave us some of his old spoiled hay bales and we laid this hay about a foot deep over the beds. That was it - super easy for planting.

During the summer, we watched the potato plants push up through the hay, fill out and bloom just lovely. And the garlic had no problem poking up through the hay. We harvested plenty of delicious scapes from those garlic plants. We had to water a bit during August when there was no rain for about 3 weeks, but otherwise the hay kept the soil moist. By late fall, we checked the potatoes and they were doing great. In fact, the hay covering the plants provided insulation keeping them protected past the early frost days.

When we finally harvested, it was impressively easy. We just lifted up the hay which had composted considerably by then. There were our beautiful potatoes, loads of them just resting on the surface soil. It was the same for our garlic which grew quite large. Both the potatoes and garlic were pest free and did very well in the composting hay. After harvesting, we just left the hay on the bed to continue decomposing and feeding the soil.

Eventually, we used this method for tomatoes and a few other crops. It most definitely keeps almost all of the weeds out, and any that sprout just pull out easily. Very little work, harvesting is simple. And the composting hay/mulch keeps feeding the soil. It most certainly was and still is my favourite method of gardening, whether on raised beds or not.

No doubt many of you have used the Ruth Stout method or other similar no-work or no-till gardening techniques. And I know it is not the best method for all crops or for all conditions. It is one of a multitude of approaches and practices that help make gardening easier, more enjoyable and potentially more productive. I would love to hear about your experiences with these methods of making gardening easy.
I love Ruth's story. Some call it the 'no-dig' method by not disturbing the ground. And, with some, they add compost instead of the hay.
 
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