Planting A Garden Bed The No-Till Way

Today I want to share with you the reason why I hardly have to weed our vegetable garden at all through the growing season, but before I show you how I manage this, here is a little reminder of what the beds looked like in March when I discussed designing a garden for easy care:

The traditional way of dealing with all these weeds that grow in the winter is to till and rake, but you may remember I don’t till the ground for a variety of reasons. Instead, in February or March (somebody who’s on the ball could even do it in the fall after harvest…), I throw a piece of black plastic over the bed.

Then time, sun and heat do their magic, and by the time I am able to plant, I pull back the plastic and it looks like this:

Now please don’t get all in a pickle over the fact that it’s not the EXACT bed in the before picture above – honestly, they both looked the same, but I needed to plant this bed first, so it is the one in the pictures. You can see in the upper part of the picture, the exact same bed is still covered with plastic- but by the end of the post, it is planted, too.

Anyway, when you pull back the plastic, it does look like this- all dead and ready to be cleaned up. I haul away the old corn stalks I was too lazy to get rid of in November, pull the soaker off to the path, and start raking all the dead weed debris. There may be a few (very few) pernicious weeds (dandelion, thistle) that I also dig by hand.

I rake it all into a pile and haul it away. I haven’t timed it, but it doesn’t take very long.

Then I add a fresh layer of compost to the bed and rake it smooth. I do this every year to build the soil and I just leave it on top. When I dig the furrows and holes, it gets mixed in some.

I want to emphasize that I have never tilled these beds- and they were pasture with that awful pasture grass when we moved here. The plants have always done well and I rotate the crops so that the corn usually follows the legumes (which fix nitrogen and enriches the soil).


After that preparation, I plant. Since this is a bed for beans (green and dry), cukes and squash, I set up my trellises first, then plant.

I do use an inoculant for the beans. It’s supposed to help them fix the nitrogen in the soil. I like the granulated kind you just sprinkle in the furrows versus the powder that needs to be applied to wet bean seeds.

I lay the soaker hose, and in this case have put a piece of fencing over some of my beans to try and deter any birds that might want to find what I’ve just planted. Watering with the soaker hoses puts the water where I want it- not in the space between plants where weeds want to grow- so it’s a major player in keeping weeding to a minimum.

You can see the beds in the upper part of the picture have been prepared too, and will grow the corn for this year. The technique is the same.
This is the part I want to encourage you with: I have very few weeds the entire remainder of the season. Honest! I don’t need to cultivate, I never have any problem finding the seedlings because of weeds, and I can leave for a week and not come back to chaos. I pull the occasional weed when I’m out in the garden, and I water and harvest.
Please join my no-till world- you’ll love it!

This is linked to Works For Me Wednesday and Thrifty Decor Chick.


  1. Anonymous says

    Hi, I jsut found your blog through Ann’s “make the best of things” blog. I’m glad I found you! I have begun changing over to a no till method of gardening as well. Have your heard of Lasanga Gardening? It is working well for me since you build up and we live on a pile of rocks! lol I have been blogging about my garden lately as it seems to be where I am spending alot of time! ;-) Please stop by if you have a minute. As for the deer, a slice or two of Irish Spring soap tied to a stake in a knee hi stocking has repelled them from my garden and we live in the woods! What is in the paths of your garden?

  2. says

    Sharon- Thank you! I wish you had left your blog name so I could take a look at your garden or respond. Maybe you’ll link up to the Tuesday Garden Parties so we’ll get to see your garden and hear your ideas? Yes, what I do is similar to lasange gardening, I just don’t do as many layers, but that book and “Weedless Gardening” were some inspirations for me. I have gravel in my paths. (Glad the soap worked for you!)

  3. Gina says

    I love this idea! I’m all about less work when it comes to the garden! Not that I don’t enjoy gardening! I can’t think of a better way to spend time – but I can think of something better to do in the garden then weeding!

    Last year, for an experiment we tried leaving one of our garden plots untilled. We were only partly pleased with the result. I’m going to read some more of your posts and see if I can learn more!


  4. says

    Team- we buy it on a roll (there are different lengths) and it’s around the construction materials. There are different thickness and the price is more as the thickness goes up. We usually cheap out and get the thinnest, but maybe they’d last longer? Kind of have to decided on your own there. :-)

  5. Team Barber-Hallquist says

    Is there a certain kind/gauge of black plastic? Do you buy it on roll? In the paint section of the hardware store?

  6. Anonymous says

    Thank you for your advise!! I’m 7 months pregnant and about to, finally, START this years crops. Note… it’s June! Going to be difficult anyhow, but I’m up for the challenge!

  7. {northern cottage} says

    what a wonderful SHARE! I’m in love with the idea of having less weeds! I so wish I could pin to pinterest for my future reference! Ever thought of turning that on?

  8. Anonymous says

    You have a very nice garden. I thought I read something in your post about a trellis for squash – do your squash grow up? Our squash plants are taking over the back yard – not very happy with that.

  9. Sharon H says

    Hi, Jamie…what sizes are your beds, and how many do you have? We are moving back to our 10 acres soon, and the garden will need a lot of work. I’m actually in the process of planting berries around the perimeter….Gooseberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, and maybe some Logan berries and black raspberries. My garden spot is about a half acre square. Want to leave the middle open for beds, hence the berries on the perimeter. Wanting to find a permanent place for rhubarb and asparagus…going to be running out room for my veggies! Oh, and I’m seriously thinking about the newspapers and compost for the berries…love all the information you share!

    • says

      I have 6 4×20 raised beds and 4 9×20 moderately raised beds (just beds with permanent paths and edges), Sharon. These are all for veggies with beds on the sides for berries, currants, rhubarb, asparagus, etc. Your new gardens sound fabulous!!

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