Deep Mulching- The Fuss Free Gardening Style

There are many ways to have a vegetable garden as well as many gardening styles. If you have raised beds for example, you could use the square foot method, a potager style garden, a keyhole garden, just to name a few.

I love browsing Pinterest and looking at pristine, organised raised beds, but when it comes down to it my gardening style is the complete opposite. For my tiny section, I have three main objectives: a high yield, good use of space and no weeding. To accomplish these goals I use a deep mulching method.

Deep Mulching 

This method is based on Ruth Stout’s ‘No Work’ gardening technique. The idea is simple: Keep a constant, thick layer of mulch around your vegetables all year round. This simple but effective technique means there is no need for weeding, tilling, digging or even composting (Though I do still compost, sorry Ruth!) It retains moisture in summer, keeps plants warm in winter and improves your soil fertility over time.

When your plants are finished, don’t pull them out. Simply chop them down and cover with mulch. Weeds poking out? Cover with mulch. You start with an initial 20cm layer of mulch, which will quickly settle down to about 5cm after rain, and just keep on adding mulch as needed.

My own gardening area is pretty small so I like to use all the space. This method lets me use the whole ground as one big garden bed with no set borders. Perfect for my hectic gardening style.

What Mulch to use?

You can use any vegetable matter as mulch. Chop down plants that are finished and use as mulch. I initially used a mixture of barley straw, pea straw and hay as my thick starting layer. Now I pile on grass clippings and leaves too. This thick layer will stop weeds as they won’t be able to reach the light.

When I’m planting seeds or sowing seedlings, I use my compost as the mulch and plant/sow right into that.

But hay has grass seed!

Yes, yes it does. The key point here is to keep the layer of mulch thick enough. If you only have a light covering then the grass seeds can touch the soil and establish in there. If your mulch cover is super thick, the grass seed will germinate but it won’t be growing in anything. Then you can simple cover with more mulch or stick in a pitchfork and flip the mulch over. Or, use straw. It has considerably less seed but it is more expensive.

Once you start this method, you have to keep going. It’s all about the continuous cycle of mulch upon mulch. For me, mulching all year round still beats constant weeding. Garden clean up each season is also considerably easier as instead of raking up dead and decaying plants, you just chuck another mulch layer on top.

And under that mulch…

Is a glorious world or microorganism and worm activity. Over the years your ground will get more and more rich and fertile as these layers continue to break down.

To get initially started, check out how to make a ‘No-Dig Garden bed‘, here. This is a great starting point as it also requires no digging or disturbing of the soil structure and microorganisms underneath.

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea I’m sure, but it’s effective and time savvy. The mulching cuts down weeding, saves A LOT of water in summer, keeps plants warm in winter and improves soil fertility, ten fold.

What do you think, what’s your gardening style?

Happy Gardening!


9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Love this way of gardening. I got a great book out of the library “The Ultimate Guide to SOIL” by Anna Hess. It is all about her NO DIG methods but goes in depth into soil structure, organic mulches, fertilizers, nutrients and everything you possibly want to know and how to do it. She explains it all like you have and it contained so much interesting information I had to buy the book then read it twice. This will be my garden bible from now on. It is lighthearted and is written from her own experiences and projects. Great for all gardeners.

  2. How often would you say you need to top
    up the mulch?? I have a couple of raised beds, which I would love to convert to deep mulch 🙂 also, any tips for keeping the cat out of it? 😂

    1. Hey! Totally suitable for raised beds. I top up the mulch every season, though more if I really see it breaking down. In a raised bed I think every season would be fine if you initially do it thick enough.

      Eeek cats! I struggled with those too. I ended up putting a whole lot of orange and lemon peel around my garden. It actually seems to have worked for me so far!

  3. Is deep mulching suitable for raised beds? I LOVE the sound of me weeding 😍 how often would you say you need to top up the mulch??

  4. Love what you do Elien :). I have a small vege garden and have quite naturally been laying all the weeds on top of the beds as it looks too good to put in the compost bin – the soil looks too dry to leave bare- and I am completely converted after watching your videos on deep mulch and no dig gardening. You are passionate and I garden the way you do and it is so helpful watching someone else work and reading your ideas. Thank You! and yes I am Following you! 😉

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