Getting Garden-Ready is a Snap with Mulch Gardening Methods

Old tires double as planters. Different layers of mulch gardening visible clockwise from top left: wood ash, grass clippings, cardboard, and worm dirt.
You wouldn't know it by this week's forecast, but last week's spring fever grabbed ahold of the North Country and sent people in droves out to their gardens to turn soil, mulch, plant, and even weed—in mid-March!

Having been warned of Mother's Day blizzards and three feet of snow in April, Better Farm just dipped a toe into the spring excitement by getting seeds out in the greenhouse and clearing out some raised beds for incoming leeks, carrots, potatoes, herbs, and beets. Here's what we've accomplished so far with our mulch gardening system at Better Farm:

Mulch Gardening: RESULTS
We've had a lot of posts on this blog about the wonders of mulch gardening; and in the fall we walked you through our winter-prep process of laying some old, degrading hay over our garden rows. Here's a shot from Nov. 3:

When we went out to work in the garden last week, here's what those same rows looked like:

Reduced from three fluffy feet of hay to about one foot, upon closer inspection here's the dirt we discovered underneath:
Black gold! This soil—derived from the rotting hay and layers of compost and cardboard, is rich in nutrients and ready to be planted.

We also weeded the raised beds—an easy job because of cardboard weed barriers, compost manure, and layers of compost:

Our upcycled tires, used last year for tomatoes and sunflowers, will grow potatoes this year. In them last fall we layered cardboard, hay, compost, wood ash, grass clippings and dead leaves, worm dirt, and a top layer of cardboard to encourage decomposition:

Next week we'll be layering more hay, compost, and cardboard in new garden rows we're creating, adding some sawdust into the mix, building new beds, and constructing a brandy-new composting system that will allow us to provide organic potting soil to the masses. Stay tuned!

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.