Doing nothing can be best | Volunteer Gardener

– Although gardening
requires a lot of hard work, I have found that sometimes it’s actually better to do nothing. Spring tillage is our
first chance to do nothing. After winter, the soil holds
the moisture for a long time, and this is a good thing. We’ll need that moisture later on when it dries up in the summertime. But we forget how quickly the
ground will dry up in April. But after a heavy rain in March, in may take a week for
that ground to dry up. If we work the ground when it’s too wet, we’ll form clods, which will haunt us for the rest of the season. Don’t overwork it. If you’re using a
rototiller, go over lightly, but don’t keep going
over and over the soil. What will happen is you’ll make the soil so finely divided that when it rains, if you just keep working
that ground and working it, you’ll get it where it looks
like good soil structure, but when it rains it’ll
compact like that right there and you’ll have a crust
and this real hard, cement-like soil. If you just work the
ground and then do nothing, the soil microbes will start
to work that ground for you, and they know how to do
it in a much gentler way that will retain the soil structure, which is valuable for them too. Rather than working the
ground too early in March, I spend my time making compost. Where the cows have been
over-wintered and feeding offers manure and hay and some soil. Then we can add some garden
refuse and old leaves and other carbon sources too. But instead of turning the compost a lot, I just let it sit for a year or two, and it turns by itself into
this wonderful fertilizer. One of the reasons for
turning a compost pile is to make sure that it gets air. But if we use enough hay and
some cornstalks and ragweed and layer that into the
pile when we make it, those act as tubes that bring in air. By spending a little more
time at the front end and making sure our
pile is built correctly with lots of access to air, then we don’t have to keep
turning it and turning it. I have never found that I can make compost that doesn’t have weed seeds. I don’t really want it
to get super, super hot, because I want there to be the enzymes and life in the compost that might be destroyed by high heat. We can also spend this time
getting the cold frames ready for starting the tomatoes,
peppers, and the sweet potatoes. I like to put a load of
horse manure down first, then wet it and compress it, so that it starts to ferment. This heat from below
will warm the soil above so that our plants sprout quicker. After sewing, these cold frames
are pretty self-sufficient. With rains doing most of the watering I feel like it’s a lot less work than managing a greenhouse
or a hoop house. A seed packet of carrots or beets will say to plant these in the spring as early as possible, as soon
as the ground can be worked. I disagree. If I plant my carrots real early, it takes three weeks for them to sprout, and there’s lots of weeds that will sprout and fill that land up
with that I have to tend. If I wait until April 11th, I think is when these were planted, the carrots sprout up within a week, and I can get in there and
till them so much quicker. We spent a little more time this year sewing the seeds very carefully so that we didn’t have to thin them later. By the end of June, they’re ready to eat, and they will certainly
have caught up with anything that was planted three weeks earlier and required a lot more work. Insects aren’t much of a problem in a biodynamic garden. When I see aphids, I think, oh, well, along come ladybug or lacebug soon and take care of them. Or with the hornworm we’ll
get these Trichogramma wasps, they’ll take care of it. So I really don’t
anything to fight insects. This field of potatoes was an acre, and I couldn’t find one
Colorado potato beetle in it. But when I stepped out into the hay field on a horse nettle plant, I
saw a Colorado potato beetle. Obviously, I hadn’t built
the soil up out there as much as we’ve built it up here. We manage for what we want,
not for what we don’t want. If we want to have healthy crops, we manage our soil in a healthy way, and then we don’t have to do anything. Many times, a gardener will find this guy. This is a tobacco hornworm,
or a tomato hornworm. It makes a big sphinx moth. It does a lot of damage. It denudes the plant, eats the leaves. We’re tempted to take this
off of the tomato plant, and just remove it, kill it. But I don’t do that anymore, because I know that we have
Trichogramma wasps around here that will come and lay eggs
along the back of this worm, and then those eggs will kill the worm. They’ll hatch out and make
some more Trichogramma wasps, so that I don’t have to go
through and kill the worms. I get to do nothing and let the wasps take care of the problem for me. I was tempted to go through
this potato field one more time to get the grass out and
to conserve moisture. But I knew from past experience that I would be disturbing
the potato roots. So I decided to do nothing instead. I used to plant
strawberries in the spring, and then dutifully hoe them
and weed them all summer long and not get anything
until the following May. Now, I just plant the strawberry plants on a tarp in September, and
I get a crop the next May. I was going to pull them out
and plant something else, but instead I did nothing. Lo and behold, with just a little bit of weeding in late summer, the strawberries came back this year, and we got three times as
many strawberries this year as we did last year. Herbs are famous for liking
you to do nothing for them. These hops are minimally weeded in the spring as their coming up, and then I just let everything grow up. There’s briars and grass and smartweed. But the hops grows up
taller and gets above them, and seems to do fine. A lot of plants really don’t like you meddling with them a whole lot. It will spread diseases and such. Herbs in particular
like to just have a spot where they can take it over, and they grow well with very little care. They really like you to do nothing. Many gardeners continually prune and tie up their tomatoes all
during the growing season. We’ve found that by just
planting the tomatoes later we only had to hoe them one time. Then we cage them and mulch them, and then we do nothing the
rest of the tomato season except harvest bushels
and bushels of tomatoes. I really don’t grow plants. I just get the conditions right
so that plants grow easily. The real work happens in the
off season with adding minerals like lime and wood ash, with
composting and cover crops, and with deep fall plowing. Then I let nature, microbes,
and the right season do all the work, and I try to do the hardest thing for a
dedicated gardener to do, nothing. (light upbeat music) – [Voiceover] For inspiring garden tours, growing tips, and garden projects, visit our website at, or on YouTube at the
Volunteer Gardener channel, and like us on Facebook.


  1. This video takes me back to Ruth Stout's original gardening without work concepts…Jeff & Ruth would have gotten along great…terrific video ! And well organized…

  2. Love i…Do nothing. I will not sit in my small garden, enjoy my cuppa coffee and do nothing and admire Nature. In fact, I no longer dig, pull out the long weeds only. Otherwise do very little.

  3. Great video! I noticed zucchinis. Here in NJ we have the plague with vine borers. Is this an issue for you in Tennessee? if so what can you suggest. thanks!

  4. Will you move your strawberries at all? I’m just wondering if they will get sick if they stay in the same spot too long?

  5. Beautiful garden, farm. The only question I have of any merit is why. Of mulch with additional,hay it straw as well. I am thinking saving water. Your thoughts are welcome. Thanks.

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