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Different Types of Gardening and Soil Preparation for Homesteaders

Updated on January 10, 2017

On my journey to becoming a homesteader, I realized there are so many approaches to gardening and preparing the soil for planting. I was going to just till up the soil until my eyes were opened to the many different approaches. I researched each one, making sure to learn as much as I could, and I was amazed to discover that I didn't have to till or hardly water, and I could even avoid weeding!

Every homesteader has their own preference and philosophies for how they approach the garden. Here, I'll explain a few different styles so you can choose the best type for you and your family.

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The Back to Eden Garden

This garden requires no tilling and is my personal preference. The process is very simple:

  1. First, you lay newspaper over your grass and soak it thoroughly with water.
  2. Next, you add some kind of organic matter like compost, lawn clippings, soil, or even wood ash.
  3. Next, layer on your wood chips and if you want, a thin layer of manure on top of the wood chips. You can also add other things if you wish.

The main goal is to protect the soil and garden how God intended. If you have ever looked at the soil in the woods, you will have noticed how rich, moist, and amazing it is. It's because the leaves, pine needles, twigs, sticks, and even trees fall. All of those things protect the topsoil and help to keep the soil moist.

So what the Back to Eden garden does is follows nature's way. This method is amazing! It can be especially beneficial if you have sandy or clay-packed soil. If you are in a dry area or are experiencing drought, you won't have to water this garden. It is no-water (well, very little), no-till, little weeding, and low maintenance method.

Lasagna Gardening

Lasagna gardening is basically the same concept as the Back to Eden garden, just with different material.

  • Start with a layer of cardboard or newspaper,
  • then alternate green and brown layers. Green can be lawn and garden clippings, peat moss, and manure, while the brown would be dried leaves or hay.

With this method, you are always adding layers like lasagna. The photo below shows you exactly what I am talking about.

Lasagna Garden

Straw Bale Gardening

This method just doesn't seem like a good fit for me because there is a lot of work that goes into prepping the straw you use. On the other hand, if you have trouble bending over and can't build a raised bed, this option could be for you.

This is a 14 day process. This is how to start conditioning your straw bales:

  1. Get pure nitrogen and put 1/2 cup on each bale. Every other day, add another 1/2 cup, for 6 days. This process is to start the decomposition and heat up your bales.
  2. Soak each bale completely with water 2-3 times a day. This can start a fire, so make sure they are soaked thoroughly! VERY IMPORTANT!
  3. For day 7, 8, and 9, reduce the nitrogen to 1/4 cup.
  4. On day 10, add a general fertilizer. This can be whatever you prefer like manure, organic fertilizer, compost, or even what you can get at the store. Add 1 cup per bale.
  5. Wait another 3 to 4 days and then plant. if you are using seeds, add a very thin layer of top soil and then plant. If you are starting with seedlings or plants, then go ahead and plant directly into the bale.

Straw bale gardening.
Straw bale gardening.

Raised Beds

Another no-till option are raised beds. These are also another great option if you have issues with bending over or have physical limitations, but still want to garden. You can build the beds as tall or as short as you need them. Plus, you can still use any of the soil preparation options I have described above, or you can fill it up with soil and go to town growing whatever your heart desires.

Container Gardening

Last, but certainly not least, is container gardening. If you live in a small place, have a small yard, or even only have a balcony, you can still garden in containers.

My grandpa uses this method because he is older now and can't do all of the upkeep a garden requires. He has us go get him potting soil and fertilizer and then he plants tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Of course, you can do way more than this, but he keeps it small and simple and something he can manage without having us help. The best part is he still gets to give us all his extra produce (which he enjoys).

Containers are practical for small spaces or for those that think they can't garden because they have no yard. I am here to tell you it is still possible! You can use anything you have laying around, like milk jugs, bags, old wheelbarrows, gutters, cheap plastic bins, anything you can fill with dirt. Have fun and be creative with this option.

A Cheaper Option for Raised Beds

Well there you have it, some no-till, little-weeding, low-watering gardening options. Tilling your land is not the only option. There are much easier ways and from my experience you get the same or better results! It really is a win win.

What type of gardening do you do? How has it worked for you?

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