Scorching the Garden

A Step-by-Step guide to Carpet Gardening
9-2018

We call our system ‘Carpet Gardening‘.  It’s a no-till, lasagna, approach to natural gardening, with hints of hugelkultur.  There is a lot of prep work, but it saves so much time and money over the life of the garden, and the results just get better and better every year you do it.

There is no tilling, no waste, very little maintenance, low cost, and it’s relatively scalable.  We are working on refining this system to disrupt the current factory farm practices which (for now) has the advantage of automation, but is also tied into deal-breakers such as synthetic fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides.

It saves hundreds of pounds of paper and cardboard from having to be shipped and processed and diverts tons of yard waste and kitchen scraps from landfills while eliminating the need to purchase any weed killers, fertilizers, or mulch (plastic or otherwise).

These are the guidelines we follow:

  • Start from seed when you can.
  • Use/reuse/repair/repurpose as much free/found/used stuff as possible.
  • Put all plant kitchen scraps, cardboard, paper towels with no harsh cleaning chemicals on them, and all yard waste into the compost.
  • Only add naturally occurring compounds to the soil such as ashes, eggshells, and bones.
  • Targeted watering and compost tea spray.
  • Companion plants and flowers to attract pollinators.
  • Seek and destroy all weeds.
  • Compost prevents and cures all plant problems.
  • Heavy prep, low maintenance.
  • Put compost only where you wish to grow.
  • #noPoisonousCrap
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Maintenance Hours in 5 Months

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Pounds of Cardboard Diverted from Processing

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Pounds of Yard and Kitchen Waste Composted

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Gallons of Rainwater Captured

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Saved by NOT Buying Pesticides or Fertilizers

Everything gets covered with a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard.  Nothing gets removed, just stomped down. We initially diverted over 150 lbs of newspaper and cardboard in 2018 from having to be mechanically processed.  In 2019, we will be using over 400 lbs. 

The newspaper we use (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) is a soy-based ink with no heavy metals and Costco enthusiastically provides us with our cardboard which is FDA approved for use with shipping food.

Then, dump a bunch of mature compost on it.  We also fortify our beds with minerals from naturally occurring items such as eggshells, bananas peels, coffee grinds, and bones.  You can also throw in ground covering herbs and flower seeds.

By using compost and natural soil amendments, we eliminated the need to buy or use any commercial products and diverted over 7 tons of kitchen and yard waste this season alone.

On top of all of that, a protective shield of raw wood mulch.  We do not buy bags of dyed or treated mulch. The shreds we use comes directly from local tree services.

We used to pick up bags of leaves in the fall that are left for collection and store them over the winter to use as mulch. Oak leaves work the best as they take the longest to decompose.  Wood mulch is heavier than leaves, takes longer to break down, and stays in place better than leaves do.  Weigh your options and go with the most natural and cost-effective way.

WEED BARRIER

The newspaper or cardboard, is a barrier that roots can grow through, but spouts can’t.  That means everything under the paper gets smothered, but the plants that grow above it thrive.   It also acts as a moisture barrier, keeping the ground underneath from drying out between waterings.

Worms also feast on the wood pulp and fungus as it decays and really they like the starch that is used as the glue in cardboard.  They leave behind some of the best natural fertilizer in the world-THEIR POOP!  The other point is bacteria does not break down cellulose (wood). Fungus does.  This encourages mycorrhizae to spread throughout the garden and work its magic.

GROWING MEDIUM

The compost is the plant’s food supply. It’s filled with everything a plant craves and more.  Compost contains millions of tiny and microscopic organisms that birth, feed, and die, thousands of times a day.  

The vast majority of critters in a healthy garden have no interest in the plants.  They feed on decaying material and things that could harm the peppers.  The exposure to such a bio-diverse environment strengthens the plant’s natural defenses and promotes overall plant health.

Compost is free to make, will not burn the plant.  It does no polluting and is completely safe for humans and animals to dig around in.

PROTECTIVE LAYER

The mulch is the icing on the mud cake. Mulch is a multi-purpose layer.  For starters, it shields the dark soil from the sun which prevents it from getting too hot which can heat the roots and stress the plant. 

It reduces how much water evaporates from the soil and acts as a splash guard from raindrops splashing dirt onto the underside of the leaves.

Later on, the mulch becomes part of the soil and is the perfect breeding ground for mycorrhizae.  Keeping the cardboard or paper covered with mulch helps to keep that layer from drying out and being less effective as a barrier.
Plus, mulch is great word.

See the Sauces,
Before There are Sauces.
UPDATED

Garden at a Glance 2018

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