The Q&A Archives: Permaculture Soil Building Without Digging

Question: I read an article somewhere that you can lay down a layer of newspaper and follow it with compost, soil, manure, etc. Have you heard of this?

Answer: You are describing a form of permaculture gardening in which you mimic Mother Nature's method to build healthy soil over time without digging. Here is one way to proceed:

Sprinkle blood meal or cottonseed meal over the soil. Spread about 6 inches of manure on top of the meal. Water this layer until moist. The meal and manure are organic nitrogen sources, which generate heat to kill weeds and disease pathogens. It's best to use aged manure, but if only fresh is available, continue with the layering, but let it sit for 2-3 months before planting.

Before planting, layer about 1/4 inch of newspaper on top of the previous layers. Use rocks to prevent them from blowing about. Moisten this layer, and add layer 6 inches of straw. Water this thoroughly and then plant. Push aside an opening in the straw and poke a hole through the newspaper. Fill the opening with soil from your garden. This soil will have plenty of microorganisms that will decompose the layers. Plant seeds or transplants and care for them as you normally would.

"Introduction to Permaculture" by Bill Mollison is an excellent basic reference. I hope this info helps.

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