Aug 1, 2008

Weedless Gardening

by Lee Reich

For the experienced gardener, this book may have nothing new. But for me, it was very useful indeed. Weedless Gardening explains how to garden "from the top down." The idea is to disturb the soil as little as possible. So instead of turning everything under each spring, you layer stuff on top to smother weeds and feed the plants. I had never heard of this method before. My mother always tilled her garden. I did, too- and it was a tedious, back-breaking chore that I put off for weeks. Made more difficult by the fact we have clay soil- slick and heavy when wet, rock-hard when dry. I have to admit I felt really proud and satisfied to look over the freshly turned, evenly spread dark earth after tilling.

Reich explains very thoroughly why tilling actually creates more of a weed problem, and how respecting the soil by leaving it virtually untouched gives you healthier plants and significantly less weeds. He outlines each step in setting up such a garden, with lots of particulars. Most of it is focused on gardening for vegetables, but there are also two sections at the end about how to use the "weedless gardening" method for flower beds, shrubs, newly planted trees, and decorative meadows. I found it very useful indeed, took lots of notes and intend to try it out with a small patch I'm preparing under my kitchen window for fall lettuces and cabbage. If the amazon reviews are any indication (yes, I still read them to judge a book by, even though I know they're often very biased) most people who have tried this method got wonderful results.

One interesting fact I learned. Ever wonder what a bell jar was originally for? In France they used to put glass bell jars over individual plants to create a miniature greenhouse effect, and grow produce out of season for restaurants and markets. My long-seated curiosity about Sylvia Plath's title is finally laid to rest!

Rating: 3/5          200 pages, 2001


Bybee said...

I read this and found it very useful. I was sorry to return it to the library.

P. J. Grath said...

The thicker the mulch layer, the cooler and moister the soil will remain, encouraging earthworms--who will do the work of tilling for you! They not only aerate the soil but enrich it with their castings. You'll have a few weeds, but they'll be easy to pull out.

janet said...

Very interesting indeed. It makes sense, though we too have clayey soil, and it's hard to imagine cramming the seeds into the ground in the spring without tilling first... I'm also curious why there would be fewer weeds, if the ground is so conducive to plants.

I have enough questions to read this, I think...! "Weedless gardening" is a great title; kind of like "the chocolate diet" or "vacuum-free housework"...

Jeane said...

P.J. Grath- thanks for the tips!

Janet- I think it works because the mulch blocks sunlight so weeds can't grow as well. Also, you have to be sure your mulch is free of weed seeds, and the author recommends layering the ground with newspaper to further block weed growth before putting down compost & mulch. I haven't tried it yet, but will soon!

janet said...


It's a new way of thinking about the soil. I always thought weeds were inevitable, but apparently there are things (other than pesticides) that can help prevent them.