On Monday I talked a little bit about just spading compost around the garden in the fall and letting “weather” do the rest for you. This is actually part of a sustainable practice of gardening called “no-till” gardening. I’ve practiced it for years for many reasons but it’s really a shock when I talk about it to most gardeners, even seasoned gardeners. So I like to bring it up now and again, even if I talk about it in different ways.
By the way, Lee Reich has a whole book on the subject called No Till Gardening if you’re interested.
The more we learn about soil, the more we realize it is best to disturb it as little as possible. Of course, as gardeners, we need to disturb it to plant things. But we don’t need to needlessly or mindlessly disturb it. Soil is literally alive and it’s working for us. The more we disturb it, the more we disrupt the good stuff!
It of course helps that I have heavy wet clay and I know better than to touch it any more than I have to. If I “overwork” my soil, it becomes even nastier than it is (hard though that is to believe!) If I work in it when it’s too wet, I risk doing damage to the soil tilth (although lately, that’s not too much of an issue). You get the idea.
Something that may really get your attention though: even routine disturbance of the soil brings dormant weed seeds to the surface. And who needs more weeds?! I don’t know about you, but it’s a losing battle for me in the garden already. I surely don’t need to make it worse by tilling extra weed seeds up!
So what do I do? Again, as I am constantly “ranting” about on my mulch rants, I don’t drop 6 inches of compost all over the place. That would be counter-productive. A nice inch or two is all you need. It’s not mulch so it doesn’t have to be spread out evenly and nicely but be sure to get it sort of out of the lumpy blobs and into a quasi-even layer. Then go in the house and forget about it.
Next spring the garden will be ready for planting and the nutrients will be ready for your plants. And you’ll have one less chore to do. It really doesn’t get any better than that.