How to garden free: newspaper and cardboad hacks

How to garden free and environmentally friendly is always on my mind and I love using newspaper and especially cardboard. For many, using it in organic food gardens is an ongoing debate.

Both have been used widely as a mulch, natural weed killer, and as potting cups.

As newspaper and cardboard breaks down, carbon is released into the soil. Carbon is an essential element to healthy soil.

The golden rule, according to the experts, is to use only plastic-free cardboard without glossy print and newspapers without colored inks. Currently newspapers are printed with safer inks such as soy ink and the general consensus is that it can safely be used.

How to garden free: 8 x Top Hacks with newspaper and cardboard boxes. These make life EASY!

1) Make your own biodegradable seedling pots out of newspaper:

The internet is full of different origame instructions. Or follow the world’s simplest method ever:
-Tear the double sheet into 2 pieces.
-Roll a longish cone.
-Fold the point over the edge, into the wide mouth, to secure the shape and close the bottom off. With this very basic shape is, your pots are meant to sit in a box together until planting day. They will not stand by themselves.
-Repeat until you have enough, and place them snug enough into the temporary box, pre-planting.
-You now have biodegradable planting pots ready to fill with soil. So go ahead and buy heirloom seeds!

2) sowing your heirloom seeds and raising seedlings without competitive weeds can be done if you start the process with the help of a weed blanket:

-Add wet newspaper sheets to a raked surface. Make sure to overlap them well to ensure great coverage.
-After designing your planting scheme, draw or paint the outline design on to the sheets.
-Cut out the ‘pattern’ of your planting spaces (the “holes” where the plants will grow through). Secure the sheets down with rocks if it is windy.

Now you can start with your sowing can be done followed by a layer of compost and mulch.

3) Create a perfect 50/50 carbon/nitrogen compost booster:

Add shredded newspaper to the same ratio as foliage to your compost. Tip: run over a few newspaper sheets next time you mow the lawn. Shredded newspaper to the compost bin is like a sprinkling of fairy dust.

4) Trap pests the easy way: Place damp newspaper is an alluring place around plants/trees before night fall, and pick them up the next morning with all the quilty visitors underneath.

5) Lasagne gardening on a base of newspaper:

Create a moistened bed of newspaper (1cm thick layer) and add on top:
– layer of small sticks and twigs
– layer of foliage
– layer of shredded color-ink-paper
– layer of compost and soil
– repeat all these steps except the bottom base (which you only do once). * Keep moist and covered with a mulch. After 2 months, you will be left with a most fertile, magic planting bed for your heirloom seeds to be sown.

6) Create an instant cost and maintenance-free pathway with cardboard boxes:
Open up your plastic-free, non-glossy cardboard boxes and overlap/lay them to form your path. Weigh down with a few rocks here and there. Follow up with mulch, wood chips or gravel. You may need to add a new cardboard sheet every other year.
How to garden free includes this very cheap, or free method – plus, you will never deal with a single weed.

7) Instant fix to impossible sand or clay soils:
Collect smaller plastic-free and non-glossy carboard boxes such as wine boxes. Dig a hole where you wish to plant, insert the box, but filled with good soil and compost. Plant next with the chosen plant, or sow your heirloom seeds in situs and finally cover the area with mulch so that the box is out of sight. This method works very well! The box will eventually break down, to further enrich the soil.

8) Easiest method to minimize weeds and maximize water: Tear up cardboard boxes that have no plastic or glossy print. Place these around your shrubs and trees, not quite over-lapping but close to. The ideais for water to easily get through the gaps, to the roots of your plants, but to beclose enough to suppressweeds. These cardboard sheets will become soil food in time and putting new cardboard carpets down will be needed now and then. Cover all areas inbetween plants that you wish to keep clean. Cover and hide with mulch.

These simple methods are game changers!

Closed loop system garden is pure logic

Nature recycles organic matter and nutrients back into the same soil and thus boosts sustainable and regenerative environments.

Keep it all in the family with a closed loop system garden. Providing food and habitat for insects create a barter system in which they offer pollination and pest control part of the deal.

When you look at an untouched environment, you will see closed loop system garden, or environment systems, in action. Nature recycles organic matter and nutrients back into the same soil and thus boosts sustainable and regenerative environments. When farming or gardening, this method is gold as you preserve nutrients and carbon levels within the soil.

In closed loop system gardens, the following will be included:

  • Chop and drop de-weeding practices return the nutrients to your soil that the weeds took. By leaving the weeds on the soil surface, you are also adding a protective mulch layer and thus protecting the soil from UV rays plus improving water retention.
  • Always keep and use pruned materials such as twigs and branches for other uses. Bigger material like branches can be stacked to create raised beds in a Hugelkultur method. Twigs can be placed in a basket-shape around seedlings to provide much needed wind and sun protection.
  • Fallen leaves can be raked up and used as a wonderful mulch in vegetable gardens, flower beds and around bigger plants as they (when brown) are high in carbon. Or instead of raking, use a lawn mower with a bagging attachment to shred and collect leaves fast. A 6cm layer of shredded leaves is perfect to discourage future weed-growth but make sure the soil that is already weeded though!
  • Grass clippings can occasionally be used as mulch too, as they are nitrogen-rich, an especially great choice for vegetable gardens.
  • Look at your space and how water acts when it rains and consider planting alongside swales as they are wonderful water-directing and retaining solutions. Swayles are a fantastic and important step intothe world of closedloop systems garden. Material from your garden can be used to fill the swales, such as rocks removed from your soil, prune clippings and rotten wood.
  • Build habitats from unwanted garden material by leaving heaps of twigs, for example, against a tree trunk. This will provide much-needed protection for certain wildlife while also helping the soil retain water. Stacking rocks and twigs together to form a beneficial insect hotel is another great idea.
  • If your garden is also your own food source, all kitchen waste can be buried in shallow trenches. Incorporate paper and some. compost or comfrey leaves to activate decomposition. This method ensures constant soil food, free of charge.
  • Chickens are often in the closed loop system garden as they will turn your unwanted green matter into manure which will in turn be the best addition for your compost heap. They are also excellent pest-control and will reward you with the best eggs
  • Aquaponics = fish and plants. This method is incredibly successful and edibles grown this way are typically nutrient dense.
In a closed loopsystem garden, a you smile, I smile attitude wins – where everyone wins. Insect hotels provide habitats to creatures whose greatest challenges include where to stay. On our side, they offer free labor. A win-win situation.

In short, a closed loop system garden are also called “zero-waste farming. Look at everything and the space around you and ask yourself what you can do if you were not going to spend a penny. You will be surprised at all the solutions waiting to be used around you.

Swales are easy methods to harvest and retain water. Gardens that include this water-savvy method, just about need no additional irrigation.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!

No dig gardening method – love it!

No-dig gardens are excellent for growing vegetables and herbs, and pretty much anything else!

Growing back the Garden of Eden with a no dig gardening method that mother nature loves!

Planting into cardboard boxes or glue-free paper bags or boxes is a great solution for no-dig gardens. The organic containers can be neaten by simply envelope the soil parcel with mulch.

When looking at the no dig gardening method, we need to observe that conventionally, farmers thought tillage help loosen compacted soil which makes it easier to plant into. At first, it will seem that tilling improves fertility in the soil – because the truth is that after tilling, the now dead soil organisms release their nutrients. After this initial nutrient boost, the soil is in fact dead.
Typically, the farmer now have to add chemical fertilizers, which further kills what is left of the original soil. This is all unnecessary to your budget and cruel to a natural system that begs to work with you. In contrast, the no dig gardening method will surprise you no end. Plants literally thrive, the garden looks happy and the results are stable.. season after season.

When leaving the soil undisturbed in the the no dig gardening method we let nature cultivate, loosen and break up the soil (and thus improves air content, nutrient and water transportation and retention. In a nutshell, you add a nice thick blanket (at least 7cm thick) of well rotted wood chips or manure, rich compost or leaf mold, old straw, and other organic matter, to the soil’s surface. This will encourage microbe, worm and insect action which results in soil crumbs glued together by their excrement. This is gold for a grower as it is a much easier system, due to having proven to have less pests and diseases. Therefor it is also budget-friendly. The no dig gardening method is a win-win situation. All that is needed, is to keep topping up every other season or as needed.

The soil is a very complex ecosystem, teeming with a rich diverse life and this ecosystem is killed through tilling because ultraviolet rays of the sun sterilizes the soil. We know this soil ecosystem improves and creates soil naturally – and also a very important (and free) relationship with the plants – which is what modern mono farmers aim to do through synthetic fertilizers at great cost.

Plants need soil bacteria, and trees need soil fungi. This beneficial relationship includes access and cycling of nutrients, movement of water and air through improved soil structures and healthier crops. All you have to do is copy the system of a forest. Don’t touch the soil, add organic matter such as fa fallen leaves, wood chips or green manure and wait for decomposition to kick in with the help of earthworms (nature’s diggers), bacteria, fungi and insects. Finally you are left with rich humus that will act like a water retaining sponge and thriving plants. Easy and free.

Fun facts: 1 table spoon of soil = 50 billion microbes. Human population = 7 billion.
Soil fungi will be found in the top 15cm layer of the soil. It literally forms a communicating skin layer for Mother Nature.
Below is Morag Gamble’s explanation on how to create a no-dig garden.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!

Make good soil easily – your plants will love you.

Grow good soil to grow great gardens.

The basics of creating a healthy eco-system and growing space, starts with an understanding of the relationship between living organisms and their natural environment. Make good soil easily and growing healthy plants will be easy too.

Grow soil consciously and watch your plants grow easily.

To make good soil easily, the first step is that soil must always be covered because, like humans and animals, we need shelter from the sun and weather in order to be full of life. Cover with living plants or with mulch such as hay, leaves or wood chips.
Conventional (modern) farming on the other hand, depletes the soil through planting a one-time annual (usually mono) crop, season after season, and therefore fertilizer ($$$) must be added.

Good loam will let water through, faster and deeper to root level, retain moisture longer while promoting and transporting plant food easily.
Good soil is instantly recognizable by its deep colour and crumbly texture.

Change dead soil to living gold:
-Add a thick mulch layer yearly. This will help your plant roots to stay cool, water to reach the roots and stay moist but not drenched. Beneficial soil fungi and bacteria absolutely needs this protective layer to survive and thrive.

  • Plant a green crop or manure (such as beans or peanuts). You can improve your soil’s nitrogen due to the legume plants’ capability to take atmospheric nitrogen and fixes it through (Rhizobia) bacteria in their root systems. After dying off, the same plants become mulch and the nitrogen is released for new plants to use. This is especially beneficial when nitrogen is needed due to the wood chips (more about that later). You will find added benefits in that it prevents moisture evaporation while also improving water retention. Break up hard clay soil by planting deep rooting plants to break it up such as radish, parsnip, dandelion and comfrey.

Where to start?
When you want to prepare a bed-space, start with cardboard (cleaned from glue and tape) as your first layer, follow with layers of shredded brown (sticks and wood) and green mulch (soft stems and foliage), then compost, minimal water and finally mulch again. Cardboard increases carbon-to-nitrogen ratio which helps speed up the soil-creating process.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!