We have two basic systems. One is in full use and the other is in the planning stages as we speak.
1. The Lasagna and Mulch System.
In one 12×12’ garden area we have grown more tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and summer squash than we can handle. We have given much of it away and have canned over 30 quarts of produce to date. It all thrives in what I call the Lasagna and Mulch System.
You will need a 12×12’ space, some landscape timbers, a lot of good compost, cardboard or paper feed sacks, some rocks, plants, and mulch.
The advantage of this system is you will water less, your nutrients will be locked underground, and it is 100% organic. Plus, you will not have to weed all summer long or buy extra fertilizer!
I made a raised bed with landscape timbers; however, I do not use these any more for raised beds unless untreated as they can leach into the soil. I piled the timbers about three high, although two is sufficient. I didn’t put any weed cloth underneath so that the roots can go deep. I staggered these and set them with re-bar. I then hammered them in about 2 feet deep, depending on where you are (we will have plans for this in the future if you need an easy download).
In the early spring, take all the contents out of your chicken coop, rabbit shed, and/or goat shed and put it in the bed. It is not necessary, but I always use fish water waste in my raised beds as well. This really gets the microbes moving and growing. You can mix in some of your shredded paper or compost so that the smell of the animal feces is not so strong. You may add some chopped up dried hay to the mix. We have found that chicken manure and compost is enough to keep our garden fully fertilized from early spring to summer.
Let it all sit for a couple of weeks, then add layers of cardboard and feed sacks (I save all of mine during the winter). Be sure to remove any plastic or staples from the sacks before using them. Next, layer them like lasagna. Make sure you cover the whole garden area except for little sections where you want radishes, carrots, and small crops. Make sure your layers go right to the sides of your raised bed so that grass and weeds cannot grow through.
Spray it down with water or fish waste water and secure the cardboard down with a bunch of lightweight rocks to keep all your hard work in place.
When you are ready to plant, map out where you want to put each kind of plant. One idea is to write your chosen crops right on the cardboard. Another idea is to push little sticks into the paper after you soak it with the water (see next paragraph). You can use this method for tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, and chilies, etc. (for radishes and other plants you will have to do things a little different). As mentioned above, you will learn this system in time and I guarantee that it will become one of your favorites.
Now drench the cardboard with water, and when the paper is soaked, poke holes where you want to plant. We used all established plants for the four varieties of tomatoes that we used. Try not to rip too large of a hole; however, if needed, you can patch them up later.
Plant your desired plants but leave some room to put in some marigolds. We didn’t do this at first and had tomato worms that spread through the whole garden.
After you plant, put about 2 to 3 inches of mulch from tree limbs or wherever. Make sure that you did not fill your grow bed too high with soil because the mulch will do good things for your garden, that is, if you have enough of it on top of the cardboard. I don’t want to be picky but I personally like to use two grades of mulch: one that is extra fine and one that is more coarse. Why? Because when you put the extra fine mulch in first it will go around the stalks of the tomatoes and garden plants and block out the sunlight. Then, a top cover of a more coarse mulch (but not too coarse)
makes a nice blanket. If you do this right at the end of the season it will all deteriorate and you can plow it in for next year’s garden.
This summer we grew the best tomatoes we have ever had, according to my wife. They were perfect with very few blemishes, and we canned over 30 quarts of them.
Let us know if you would like a download of the full article on this subject.
2. The Drip Irrigation Low Pressure Garden.
When I saw this system demonstrated in southern Florida I could hardly believe my eyes. We were shown how a slow drip irrigation system can be used in all areas of the world with (2) five gallon buckets. For this system we are using a specially designed tape that can be ordered from our site. It requires very little pressure, unlike many other drip irrigation systems. This is being used in villages around the world.
One 100 ft. tape can provide irrigation for a small garden that will produce enough food to feed a small family in summer months. This system works well for growing plants that you need more space for, such as pumpkins, watermelons, and larger vines that don’t work well growing up on a trellis.
We are beginning to develop this system in our garden and will bring updates soon.