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The Minimalist Approach to Gardening: Worm Towers & Raised Garden Beds

By Edited May 21, 2014 0 0

Deep, Wide & Raised Garden Beds

Grow more, in less space, with less work

Raised Garden Beds

I started gardening after reading Edward C. Smith’s  The Vegetabe Gardener’s Bible. What got me hooked was the tag line  “grow more in less space with less work.” The idea was instead of doing a garden the traditional way, which meant narrow rows with wide walkways. You designed your garden with the wide, deep and raised garden beds surrounded by small narrow walkways. The whole purpose behind this was to design a garden around the needs of plant instead of the gardener. There were several advantages to this.

Narrow vs Wide Rows

 (1) You can grow more plants in less space. By having narrower walk ways you have much more space open up for planting.

(2) Garden beds are designed to be permanent. This means you only need to do the work of  composting, aerating, weeding etc within the bed itself. Walkways are designed  with one purpose only to give you access to your garden. They are narrow to limit the amount of space available for weeds and covered with a layer of newspaper and mulch or hay to physically impede growth. In addition since they are path ways the soil will be compacted further impeding growth.

  (3) Water – efficient, hassle free systems such as drip irrigators can be installed in wide beds. They will allow you to bring water where it will do the most good, directly to the plants. Deep beds also act as reservoirs making more water available for your plants and making them need water less often.  

(4) Wide deep beds provide space for a plant's roots  to exten out and down creating larger, healthier more vigorous plants.

Voila there you have it! I installed my garden beds and the results was incredible The year before I had tried my hand at gardening and gotten exactly one yellow pear tomato, One. Now I was getting a constant supply of kale, lettuce and onions and my tomato plants were HUGE and bursting at the seems with tomatos.

 

 

Worm Tower - Diagram

Worm Towers

Self generating, self distributing compost

Having had a taste of success I hungered for more. So I did some more research and eventually I came across another minimalist gardening idea - Worm towers. They say a bad gardener grows weeds, a good gardener grows vegetables, and the best gardeners grow soil. This is absolutely true; if you have good soil 90% of the work is already done.  So how do you “grow” good soil?  Composting. The traditional way was to create a pile of organic material made up of lawn cuttings, kitchen scraps (NO Animal products except for egg shells and maybe the occasional bone) and some extras like rock powders and cardboard to add trace minerals and carbon. You would let it sit in the sun turning it over occasionally. Eventually the heat, microbes and earthworms would break it down into compost. This would take a couple of months once the compost was ready you would take some of it and spread it around your garden.  A worm tower was the brilliant idea of some unknown genius gardener who decided this was way too much work. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity – You get the worms to make and spread the compost for you and you just have to pay them in kitchen scraps. The way it works is you get a cylinder shaped object with a top ( I used some empty Whey protein jars). Drill some holes in the bottom and the sides about the size of your pinky finger and then fill them up with a layer of cardboard, soil, and aforementioned organic material.   Then you bury them about  2/3 of the way into the ground in your garden bed(s) and voila number 2! Self generating self distributing compost .  There you have it this is the foundation of my minimalist (read lazy) approach to gardening.

I’m always open for more minimalist gardening tips on gardening.  So, please leave a comment below.

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Bibliography

  1. Edward C. Smith The Vegetable Gardener's BIBLE. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2009.

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