I am starting new gardens from scratch this year, and in the interest of learning new things in new places, I have set up an experiment to compare a few different methods of gardening. I will keep this as brief as possible, and expound upon each of these methods as I update you with progress reports over the following years. Each bed will be planted in the spring with potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and an assortment of vegetables, along with a row of sunflowers and buckwheat. I have no expectations or knowledge of how the results will look, this experiment is purely out of curiosity and I am excited to see how the different methods turn out. How will they yield, handle drought, soaking rains, etc?
Above is my control plot. This is my favored method of gardening as it only requires inputs of massive amounts of hard work. Sod is dug in only roughly with a hoe and lots of sweat and soreness, seeded to winter rye and mulched with spoiled hay. I feel confident that this plot will produce predictable results.
In the title picture at the top of the page, you will see 3 beds side by side which represent some very popular methods which are perennially competing for the vote of the internet gardeners around the world.
On the right – fall leaves which were piled 9″ deep, quickly compacted by rain and settling to 3″ deep.
In the middle – mushroom soil (spent mushroom substrate – horse manure, straw, wood mulch, various additives), spread at 4-6″ deep.
On the left – wood mulch (twice shredded, undyed), spread at 6-9″ deep.
One final method – I ran a subsoiler (aka chisel plow or ripper) at a depth of about 18″ across a hillside that will become an orchard. It left only small furrows at the surface, and what a few have agreed looks like a giant molehill along its path. I will be planting into these furrows with little other preparation. I don’t have high hopes for this method as the grass will be impossible to stop from crowding in, but if I provide even a small amount of tillage with my 6″ grub hoe I think I can achieve at least modest success. The benefit here is that the subsoiler has made a beautifully fluffy soil down to 18″ which roots will be able to easily follow.
I am excited to see and document the differences in each system, and hope to provide some value to readers.