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Planting seed in a Ruth Stout garden  RSS feed

 
John Todd
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Hi! I'm new here. Been looking around and loving the site and forums.

I'm an experienced gardener and have grown very productive (and delicious) gardens for years now.

But my well-amended soil also grows lots of weeds. I've been breakin' my back all these years going after weeds. Now I want to try the ruth stout method, but I can't seem to get my head around one thing:

How do I plant seeds with all that mulch?

I use an Earthway Precision Seeder because the gardens are huge and there is no way I could seed them by hand. (Tried it; spent 3 days in bed with a sore back.)

So how do I get the seeder to handle that mulch? Do you even plant in the mulch or rake it back first? Seems way too much work to rake back the whole garden (minimum 3000 sq.ft.)

And what about next Spring? Will I have to till once at the beginning of the year (instead of multiple tillings)?

I am clearly missing some info and not understanding this. Could someone please enlighten me?

Thanks so much!
-Johntodd
 
John Todd
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Bump da' bump.

Anyone?

I've tilled the garden for this first year. Got my hay on standby. Will plant tomorrow, then wait for them to rise, then mulch.

-Johntodd
 
Tyler Ludens
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You might want to look into small-space intensive gardening like Biointensive. The plants are so close together weeds don't have a chance, and all inputs are reduced. If you're used to planting in rows, you might be able to reduce your garden size to one quarter what it currently is if you switch to intensive beds.

When I want to plant in a mulched area I dig a little hole, add some good soil, and put seeds in. If I want to plant a solid bed of something like greens, I rake the mulch away until I get to soil, and plant in that. The growing plants act as a mulch, so I don't need to worry about mulching between them.

http://www.growbiointensive.org/

I try to look for small-space and easy methods of growing, because I have to fence everything to protect from deer, and because I have lots of achey pains!

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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I forgot to mention; with Biointensive you don't till once the beds are made and the soil is in good condition. So that is one big chore you may never have to do again!

 
Tobias Ber
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hey john.... welcome to the forums.

i m totally no expert, but heard some info on that method.

i think, you would need to rake your row clear from the mulch. seed. maybe push seed to the ground with a rake. water. wait until well germinated. rake hay back. make sure not to put too much on the seedlings.

i understand this as a no-till method, but i might be wrong. this means, that you don t till ever again. the work of seeding and harvesting is the only thing you do with the soil. this means, you ll have to make sure not to step on the rows, because that would compact the soil.


i hope it helps and that other people might join in.



 
Simone Gar
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Location: Alberta, zone 3
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I am just reading ruth stout's book right now!

You pull the mulch apart. Make a small furrow and seed. Don't pull the mulch too far away but don't pull it back over the seeds.

I haven't tried it, I just read it this morning though. Get the book. It's HILARIOUS and informative.
 
John Todd
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Just planted the whole thing.. Whew! Time for a nap.

THe reason this is so important to me is because the main garden is 6000 sq.ft and the side garden is another 1000.

I'm tired of weeds!

Thanks!
-Johntodd
 
Rebecca Norman
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Simone Gar wrote:I am just reading Ruth Stout's book right now!

You pull the mulch apart. Make a small furrow and seed. Don't pull the mulch too far away but don't pull it back over the seeds.

I haven't tried it, I just read it this morning though. Get the book. It's HILARIOUS and informative.


That's exactly what I wanted to post when I got back online, but Simone beat me to it.
 
Simone Gar
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Rebecca Norman wrote:
Simone Gar wrote:I am just reading Ruth Stout's book right now!

You pull the mulch apart. Make a small furrow and seed. Don't pull the mulch too far away but don't pull it back over the seeds.

I haven't tried it, I just read it this morning though. Get the book. It's HILARIOUS and informative.


That's exactly what I wanted to post when I got back online, but Simone beat me to it.


Sorry.

Gotta be faster
 
John Todd
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You guys are great! Thanks for the help!

I've got the garden tilled, planted, and watered-in.

My plan is to wait until the plants are 6" tall and then hay-in. So this is my last time tilling forever! YAY!

In the meantime, I'll break out the wheelhoe to keep the weeds in check until hay-in.

Thanks again!
-Johntodd
 
Shawn Harper
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John Todd wrote:

My plan is to wait until the plants are 6" tall and then hay-in.


Maybe wait for 8-12 inches unless you have a bad heat wave. One thing with heavy mulch is heavier slug pressure the first couple years till the slug predators balance stuff out. I always assume 50% of my stuff will die young, but then I also neglect my stuff except 1 day a week.
 
jesse markowitz
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John Todd
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Great film!
 
jesse markowitz
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I just got back into doing these gardens and was wondering myself what to do exactly.

For my heat loving plants, I'll just mulch with some well composted horse manure, spread very thinly around the plant rows. About 2 inches away from the bed will be back to woodchips. And then the plan is that every other plant is completely surrounded wood chip.
 
Simone Gar
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Ok, I have to share this. I mentioned above that I read Ruth's book in spring. I was running out of time and never got the chance to buy seed potatoes. Reading in her book that she just throws potatoes on the ground and covers them with hay, I figured time for a trial. As I said no seed potatoes, so I went and got some mini potatoes (store bought, non-organic) from the fridge and did exactly what she said. Thrown on the ground (they ended up between the asparagus), hay on top. And promptly forgot about them (i.e no weeding, fertilizing, watering, re-applying mulch, etc).
Last week, walking down the rows of asparagus... "WTF? Where do the potato plants come from?" It dawned on me. I haven't harvested anything yet so I can't really say how well it works but I have never had nicer potato plants ever! Ruth Stout is my hero!
 
John Todd
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Well the garden was a big success this year!  Here are the stats:

1.  There was a 99% reduction in weeds.  Let me say that again: a NINETY-NINE PERCENT REDUCTION in weeds!

2.  Irrigation was cut by about 80 (EIGHTY) percent!

3.  Labor was slashed 50%.  It was offset by having to hay-in after planting in soil (first year problems?)

4.  Most weeding time was spent walking around looking for weeds!

5.  Hay is starting to decompose into compost.

6.  Can now practice direct-to-ground composting.  That's a fancy way of saying I toss buckets of stuff out there on the hay and let it rot.  (plants pulled after harvest, etc.)

This was a major year for us.  Next year I will be planting in the hay using a pitchfork to make the holes and string-and-stake to mark to rows out beforehand.  Already planted a small fall crop experimenting with different methods of planting.  Pitchfork works best.  No need to rake rake out, and no raking it back in after planting using the pitchfork for holes.

Thanks all!
-Johntodd
 
Simone Gar
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Nice work, John!

I forgot to mention that I also escaped the late frost that killed everybody's asparagus around here. People were surprised that mine did just fine.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Wow, John, that is so wonderful and exciting!  Great success!
 
Della Miller
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Location: Hernando, MS Zone 7b clay soil
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This is fantastic news, I am just reading her book now.  My husband a very critical conventional gardner has real doubts about Ruth Stout gardening but I am SO happy to hear Central Texas is doing it as his argument was her region as compared to ours 7B. 

Please post pics.  I am doing 5 hugelkultur mounds, 3 small 1 semi circle and a long long Stout row to compare growing techniques. I also have a 1000 sqft traditional garden to compare..  but we are not using any chemical fertilizer and Im not working on that weeding mess!  I have to say i worked very very hard building the hugelkultur, and I am hoping Ruth Stouts does better but I have very clayey soil here so that worries me a bit.  I will post pics of my modest beginings and I cannot wait to see pics of yours. I am looking to get some haying done this weekend and leave it to decompose all winter, then plant in the spring.  In between now and spring i will rake leaves, and small twigs, pull some twigs out of the pond (we have way too much habitat) and chip it then add it to the garden plot.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I had similar success/observations after my first year with this method.  The issues with it began to develop a bit later, specifically this year when the voles and slugs began to abound in the mulch habitat.  Last year the slugs and voles were bad, but now they are epidemic.  This season was epic in the rain department, and my ideally damp heavily mulched raised beds were the best place for both of these species, as everything else was soaking wet.  They aren't stopping me.  Today I have been applying a deep layer of leaves and spoiled hay on top to hold the leaves from blowing away or drying in the wind.  I'm thinking that ducks or chickens might be in order for the slugs, and some kind of predator (cat/ferret?) for the voles.  Not sure when I'll get my livestock/predators though.  Other work gets in the way of those commitments.

That Ruth Stout film was great.  What an amazing woman.  I really appreciate how she followed her inner voice.   I haven't watched the next film yet.  Just on lunch break now.
 
Della Miller
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Location: Hernando, MS Zone 7b clay soil
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:I had similar success/observations after my first year with this method.  The issues with it began to develop a bit later, specifically this year when the voles and slugs began to abound in the mulch habitat.  Last year the slugs and voles were bad, but now they are epidemic.  This season was epic in the rain department, and my ideally damp heavily mulched raised beds were the best place for both of these species, as everything else was soaking wet.  They aren't stopping me.  Today I have been applying a deep layer of leaves and spoiled hay on top to hold the leaves from blowing away or drying in the wind.  I'm thinking that ducks or chickens might be in order for the slugs, and some kind of predator (cat/ferret?) for the voles.  Not sure when I'll get my livestock/predators though.  Other work gets in the way of those commitments.

That Ruth Stout film was great.  What an amazing woman.  I really appreciate how she followed her inner voice.   I haven't watched the next film yet.  Just on lunch break now.



I remember reading in her book she put out beer in a bowl and collected all the slugs.  Some other options I have read here and there are coffee grounds, and planting garlic as a companion. 
 
John Todd
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I'm happy to say that a month ago I released a flock of attack chickens into my RS garden.

Cleanup is going well.  Slugs, crickets, bugs, all going to the great garden in the sky.

Leftover tomatoes don't stand a chance, either.


In all seriousness, I have split my garden in two and fenced it all in.  Right now the chooks are cleaning up this year's garden for me.  They will stay there all next year while the other side gets planted.  At the end of 2017, I flip them over to the other side for cleanup.  Chooks on one side, gardens on the other, every year I flip.

What do they do when they are in there?  Eat bugs, slugs, weed seeds, churn the hay, and poop.

-John
 
Della Miller
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John Todd wrote:I'm happy to say that a month ago I released a flock of attack chickens into my RS garden.

Cleanup is going well.  Slugs, crickets, bugs, all going to the great garden in the sky.

Leftover tomatoes don't stand a chance, either.


In all seriousness, I have split my garden in two and fenced it all in.  Right now the chooks are cleaning up this year's garden for me.  They will stay there all next year while the other side gets planted.  At the end of 2017, I flip them over to the other side for cleanup.  Chooks on one side, gardens on the other, every year I flip.

What do they do when they are in there?  Eat bugs, slugs, weed seeds, churn the hay, and poop.

-John


Wow awesome! would love to see a pic of that i have chickens but Im afraid they will annihilate my veggies
 
John Todd
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You have to split the garden in two with a fence.  Chooks on one side, garden on the other, then in the fall after you close out the garden, switch them over.

Repeat year after year.
 
John Todd
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Here's the plan.

See the "selector fence"?  That's what I flip each year to direct them to which side I want.

Sorry for the irregular shapes of the garden.

Chicken Plans
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I remember reading in her book she put out beer in a bowl and collected all the slugs.  Some other options I have read here and there are coffee grounds, and planting garlic as a companion. 
  Yeah.  I guess I will have to give the slugs some beer... darn.  I guess they don't mind the cheap stuff for their death bath; I'll save the expensive stuff and home brew for myself.  I do have a large market garlic crop, and the slugs do not bother my garlic at all, so there's that.  And I have tons of small flat cloves or double cloves that i don't plant for my market crop that I could intercrop with other plantings.  The slugs are big on the brassicas and the greens.  I can get my parents, who drink more coffee than I, to save the grounds every day this winter, and see how that goes around the greens and brassicas in the spring.  The voles are into the beets and potatoes and carrots.  I got no beet harvest this year; they got them all!-bastards.  I have a twelve acre meadow full of voles.  Potatoes have to be mounded with dirt or with dense material like chips, as doing it with straw/hay I loose half at least to vole damage.   

I just watched the second video, and really like the methods this lady used.  I have just started to explore the Back to Eden thing.  I have a pretty good amount of wood chips, but they are very course (from an arborist).  I have a guy getting a new carburetor on his old chipper, and he said that he would give me a good deal on it when he gets it going as he owes me a good deal... long story.   Anyway, I want to get a chipping routine happening with smaller greener material in the spring (really small willow/poplar/cottonwood/birch branches or tiny thin coppice wood), to get a good base layer of fine, easy to break down stuff to place on the soil surface, and then put the larger stuff on top.  I had good success with potatoes in the coarse mulch, but I want some finer stuff to mix with it for smaller less robust plantings.  Heavy chips will go in all of the paths as well.

I really want to get some chickens, but with my work as a railroad maintainer... I leave really early and have a minimum 8 hour day with lots of random overtime plus a commute.  It's a good paying gig (and it's nailing the mortgage down fast), but it doesn't give me a ton of time to spend tending a flock of chooks.  I'm in serious predator country (Cougar, lynx, black and grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, wolverines, martins, mink, ermine... you get the picture) backed onto big wilderness, and so I want to be a lot more present, and get building some really solid infrastructure if I decide to steward critters.

I'm really glad to hear of your success, John, and your's too, Simone.


   
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I am hoping Ruth Stouts does better but I have very clayey soil here so that worries me a bit.
Della, if you have a spadefork, you can jab it into the clay of your beds, thus pushing some compost that was spread into the holes... or you can rub the compost into the holes.  Clay has a higher cation exchange capacity than silt or sand, meaning that it can hold nutrient molecules better, and so it's not all bad.  If your fork into the clay, and get some organic material into it, and it is kept moist (not wet, and definitely not dry), then your plant roots will break it up.  You can also cut trenches into it with a hoe, and place some compost in the trench and plant in that.  You will be surprised at what the plant roots will break into!  If you are not in a huge hurry to get the garden producing everything this year, you can start specifically with plants like daikon, radish, turnips, which will work the clay, and make organic soils.  Also, clay soils can produce a lot of potatoes, beets, carrots, and everything else...  You just have to get some growth in it, or some organic material in it.  If you mulch on top of it and leave it, the worms will come and do it for you over time as well.  Do not worry about clay.  Just don't step on your clay beds; It compacts worse than any other soil.  
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Great Job, John, and welcome to Permies.
 
John Todd
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So, it's January now, and I was wondering:

Should I throw down a light sprinkling of bag Nitrogen to feed the bacteria and help speed the decomposition?  This would be in prep for the Spring garden in a few months.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Adding a bulk amendment of a single nutrient is not recommended, as this will imbalance your system.  Better to add compost, or AACT (actively aerated compost tea), or aerated manure tea, if you want to boost microbes, as these will give much more than just nitrogen, and in a much more balanced form.  I can't say for sure, of course, but if you have been adding bulk single nutrient amendments, this might be one reason why you have been having weed problems, despite lots of garden experience/time in a garden space.  Weeds are often natures response to soil imbalance, not just disturbed open ground.
 
Matu Collins
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I too have had good success with Ruth Stout methods keeping weeds down. I also have an outrageous population of Amber snails, slugs and voles. The voles are the biggest most serious problems because of deer ticks and lyme disease. Voles love the hugelkultur too. If anyone has had success with vole control I'd love to hear about it.

As for adding nitrogen, I think the chickens will add plenty. The mulch breaks down plenty fast anyway, in my experience.

 
John Todd
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Let me offer a follow-up to this thread.

It's spring here again, and the garden is coming up very nicely.  BUT there is one problem: Having to hay-in around the plants again, just like last year.

This was caused by a mistake I made last fall when I closed out the garden for winter:

I did not put down enough hay.  I thought it was.  It was thick and gooey.  Really nice looking.  But it wasn't enough and now there are weeds again.

The reason this happened?  I didn't anticipate how much the hay would decompose over winter.  By springtime there was so much decomposition that the hay was much thinner than it looked.  Of course it decomposed from underneath, leaving a nice looking layer of hay on top.  Turns out that was a thin sheath of hay.

Moral of the story:  when you close out this fall, be sure to dump a whole lot of hay on there.  You'll need approximately a metric booty-load of hay.

Thanks!
-John
 
John Todd
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As a follow-up to the follow-up:

This year's garden is winding down.  There was definitely a problem with weeds this year, but only in certain patches of the garden.  I remember the soil in those patches being brown, rather than the good-looking soil we typically have around here.

So I looked it up, and it turns out the soil was starving for nutrition and was eating the hay like candy.  Therefore, it left gaps for weeds to emerge.

So let me repeat my previous statement:  Put a metric booty-load of hay on in the Autumn so the soil can have a feast.  Then more in Spring.

I am doubling up my hay order for this, and I expect to for at least two more years after 2018.

Thanks!
-John
 
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