This won't work/be practical for everyone but it worked amazing for me.
Basically all I did was dump leaves and branches on the ground, inserted 2 shovelfuls of compost where the transplants or seeds were going, planted, and snuffed out weeds by burying them in more mulch. That's it.
Didn't water once. Not even at planting time. The only weeds we pulled were from the bad habit of pulling weeds. 90% were simply buried in mulch.
I'll put details in a second post but here are some pictures...
Dump 8-12 inches minimum of mulch in 3-4ft wide beds. You can make them as long as you want, and in any shape you want.
The mulch should be high in carbon overall (straw, fallen tree leaves, dried grasses) but grass clippings or pine/spruce needles are great to add in small amounts.
To plant transplants: put 3-4 rows of beer mug sized pockets of compost/manure for the plants to grow in. Make sure to plant the stems 1-2 inches deeper than the soil level of the pot, so the plant will be less likely to fall over. One planted. Pat the compost down very firmly.
You can use that method for planting seeds as well but you can also do it another way: make a thin, 2-3 inch-wide trench in a line down the length of the bed. Fill it with compost/ manure, ideally mixed half and half with soil. Press it down, plant your seeds, press again.
For both methods; water if needed. I was able to plant when it was raining or had just rained. I never watered and my yields continue to be on par with a conventional garden.
This method will only apply to those who can procure organic matter of the high carbon variety. Basically anyone in towns and cities with yard waste and/or compost pickup, or anyone willing to gather brush, or rake leaves.
- no, the leaves won't blow anywhere unless maybe if you're living in an exceptionally windy area
-when you think you've got the bed high enough...make it higher.
-gather twice as much mulch as you think you'll need
-2 shovelfuls of compost is significantly better than one. Go big if you can.
-stay on top of weeds from the beginning and it'll make your life a hell of a lot easier
I just ran the calculations. For my small two acre farm, it would cost about $145,000 to apply this treatment. And it would require the entire on-hand supply of compost from the mega-compost facility that's located about 25 miles away. The delivery charge would be about $30,000 and it would require around 4000 gallons of diesel. Then, once I got the compost to my place, I'd have to spread it out and make beds. The labor required to do that would take more than is available during a growing season. Then I'd have to be constantly applying more mulch during the year.
My vegetable garden is huge by community standards, but it only occupies about 1/30th of the acreage devoted to growing vegetables in my community. This treatment can be applied to a small garden, with little concern for costs of labor or materials, and without considering externalities like the amount of fuel consumed or environmental factors. It doesn't scale well for community use... There are not 30 mulch production facilities in this area that could supply enough mulch for even my small village. There are a couple dozen villages in the valley and several towns. As a first approximation, this strategy would require about 600 mega-compost production facilities to serve my valley. I figure that it would take about 400 acres to grow enough plant material to cover my farm 12" deep with compost.
While fuel is still cheap, and while externalities don't matter, this is a great way to build soil fertility. Many people throw their wealth away: Mining their property of nutrients and sending them to the landfill. Might as well take advantage of them and put the nutrients to good use on our own places.
Many beginning gardeners have limited space and access to free mulch material. Some need only look to their own lawn and trees. Neighbors often have material to give away. My business produces mulch that would need to be hauled to a facility, if I didn't dump it on the garden.
I don't spread it so thickly, but if I had more to dispose of, I would.
Not only do many people throw away their fertility, millions will pay you to take it.
Re: Joseph... That's why I lead the IP by saying it won't work for everyone. But I think that it is very applicable to people with backyard gardens, or small scale farmers like me. Even if you're too far from city yard waste pickup, it can work. Some farmers have too much old hay laying around and will deliver it free or sometimes even pay you to take it, for example. There's also lots of unused manure pilez out there in cattle and horse country.
Also...you don't need the 12 inches of mulch every year, if you keep up on the weeds. After year 1 the leaf mulch does break down to an inch or two of height but the ground below should be weed free and soft enough that you can make transplanting holes in the soil with a trowel or shovel
As for compost... The amount of compost needed (for transplants at least) would be the same or less than a conventionally made garden bed, would it not? In my experience in conventional market gardens, we would at the very least add 1 shovelful of compost for each transplant. And for heavy feeder crops is it not common to spread compost across the growing area, till it in, and also add a shovelful of compost in the planting hole?