Adventures in Permaculture: Planting the No Till Garden

My last post described how I prepared my vegetable planting beds without tilling them.  The native fill soil of my landscape is horrible so layering paper and organic matter has given me a nice soil profile over the years.  I’m basically growing on a raised bed above the heavy clay subsoil.  

So there is actually not that much to say about planting other than I simply open a hole in the paper-straw layer and plug a little plant in.  See the picture below



If I decide to plant seeds – lettuce, spinach, carrots, radish, I simply scrape away the straw and plant a patch of seeds.  I seem to rarely plant seeds in rows although I’m not entirely sure why….



Planting potatoes is as easy as scratching the soil surface a bit, slicing up some potatoes and dropping them on the soil and covering with a thick wad of straw.  The potato plant shown below was planted this way in March and this is what it looks like by early June. They take about 90 days to mature so should be ready to harvest in late June.  I planted another crop in early June which will be ready to harvest about August.  Make sure each potato has at least one ‘eye’ or bud on it.



Potato nestled into soil/weed layer under straw.  I did not dig a hole but sort of scratched the surface so potato piece made contact with soil


Image above shows potatoes planted in March using this technique


The area to the left of the downspout was covered in wild lettuce 2 feet high.  I stomped it down and layered the paper and mulch over them.  I then planted potatoes right in the weed mass/soil below.  The potatoes are very vigorous and will out-grow, out-compete the weeds.  I may have to pull some weeds as potatoes push through but potatoes have the advantage. I used a lot of paper and straw here.

A couple tips – the more weeds, the more paper and straw are needed.  Make sure the weeds are completely covered from light.  Without light and air,  the weeds smother, one little ray of light touching a leaf and weeds will grow to find their way out and prosper.  If this happens you can pull the weed and/or slap another layer of paper and lump of straw over it.

The weeds also ‘cook’ or ‘steam’ under the paper and straw in the sun.   The heat combined with absence of light and air really does the trick.


I also planted some tomatoes but pulled off these spotty leaves which could be Septoria disease.  Tomatoes are one plant that should be planted deep. Roots will form from the fine hairs that cover the tomato stem.  In this case I picked off the suspicious looking leaves and planted to the next set of leaves.

So this is what I managed to do to get my veggies in before taking off for Denver for  weeks.  I’ve watched the news and seen rain so I’m hoping everything si staying moist under its straw blanket.  My son went home today and will water for me – at least what he can find and recognize!   


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