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The world of gardening is constantly changing and experts are constantly developing new ways to optimize growing space. One of the key figures in gardening innovation is Ruth Stout and her innovative method of gardening.
Now, this laid-back approach to gardening might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for an easy and relaxed method of gardening, you need to keep reading.
Here is an overview of the Ruth Stout method and how to implement it on your property.
Understanding the Ruth Stout Method
Ruth Stout is famous for her books “Gardening Without Work: for the Aging, the Busy, & the Indolent” and “The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book: Secrets of the Famous Year Round Mulch Method”.
She developed a unique method of gardening that reduced the amount of labor needed to maintain the garden. Unlike traditional methods of weeding and tilling, Ruth Stout believed that these practices could be replaced by mulching.
His method involves laying a continuous layer of mulch or hay over your garden to promote a healthy growing environment for your plants and crops.
She was passionate about this method of gardening and she continued to publish books and magazine articles to inspire other gardeners to try her method from the 1950s and well into the 1970s. Her books are still in production today. today.
Since his method was first published, curious new gardeners have been drawn to his approach because of its simplicity and easy-to-follow structure. If you’re new to gardening and plant care, this is a great way to start.
As we said, the main technique of the Ruth Stout method is to lay a thick layer of hay mulch on the ground and let nature do the work.
She recommended also covering the soil with materials from your own garden like twigs, grass clippings, kitchen scraps and prunings, making this a great method if you prefer more casual organic gardening that uses the natural environment.
Ultimately, you’re letting nature take over and providing a little support so your crops can grow and the flowers can bloom at their own pace.
How to Use the Ruth Stout Method
If you want to try the Ruth Stout Method, here are some tips you should know. The first step in creating the perfect Ruth Stout garden is to understand the soil on your property.
1. Modify your soil
Ruth Stout’s main gardening misconception is to assume that you can throw mulch on any soil, and it will instantly solve your problems. This is not the right way to use this method and you need to spend time understanding the type and quality of soil you have in your home.
Otherwise, you might end up frustrated because the method doesn’t work and you can’t identify where you’re going wrong.
First, determine your soil type and modify it as needed. For example, if you have clay soil, it is very likely that vegetables will have a hard time growing there because there is poor drainage.
To remedy this, you need to work in tons of well-rotted compost before adding the plants and hay mulch on top.
Sandy soil has more drainage, but water can drain away too quickly and there aren’t enough nutrients for many plants. In this situation, add plenty of well-rotted compost, then add the layer of hay mulch at the end.
2. Pick the right time to start
The ideal time of year to start the Ruth Stout Method is late summer or early fall, as temperatures will be moderate. If you start the process in the spring, it will still be too cold from winter and the mulch will prevent the soil from warming up.
When you cover the soil with mulch in late summer and early fall, the soil will already be hot from summer. This extra layer will set the stage for subsequent seasons.
Over time, the mulch breaks down and becomes compost to add nutrients to the soil.
3. Gather your mulch materials
If you don’t have access to hay, you can always try this gardening method. As already mentioned, you can try leaves, but other options include the following:
- Grass clippings
- pine needles
- corn stalks
- The sticks
Depending on where you live and what material you can find, you can experiment with these different mulch options until you find the right choice.
4. Place the mulch on the ground
The next step is to place the mulch on the ground. You don’t have to worry about storing plant scraps from falling leaves or grass clippings. This saves a lot of time and you can immediately spread the mulch when the time is right.
When you lay the mulch down, it will suppress weeds and add nitrogen to the soil. You should spread the mulch at least eight inches thick.
5. Begin the planting process
If you haven’t already, you can start planting crops in your garden once the weather permits.
According to Ruth Stout, she sprinkled the seeds on the ground, patted them gently, and covered them with hay mulch.
Here are the most common vegetable crops you can plant in a Ruth Stout garden, but try whatever you like:
6. Add more
Keep adding mulch over time. The mulch will start to compress over time and you will need to replenish it. Mulch will keep weeds away and add nutrients to the soil so you don’t have to till, fertilize, weed or worry about cleanup.
Benefits of the Ruth Stout Method
Even though traditional methods are effective and convenient for gardening, that doesn’t mean they’re the best option for your property. The Ruth Stout Method is especially beneficial if you want to grow crops and care for plants with little effort.
One of the many reasons people never try gardening is that it requires a lot of extra work and attention that some people don’t have. With this method of gardening, the primary objective is to make gardening more accessible and easier.
The Ruth Stout Method is less physical than traditional gardening, which benefits the elderly and young children. So if you want to involve more people in the garden, this could be a great technique to try at home.
Ruth Stout was proud of her work, which she targeted at “lazy gardeners”, and it is a perfect fit for farmers who lead busy lives.
The Ruth Stout method can be used in any space, regardless of its size. So, you can try this technique in a small potato field or a large farm.
This method can save you money, especially if you choose hay which is often cheap to buy from local farms or markets. The use of leaves from your trees or clippings from your lawn is free!
Another benefit of the Ruth Stout method is that you don’t need to water as often as the mulch can retain moisture better than traditional gardening methods. So if you’re worried about falling behind on your water routine, this method can help you stay on track.
Disadvantages of the Ruth Stout Method
There are a few drawbacks to using this method.
The Ruth Stout method has only a few drawbacks, including the aesthetic aspect. Although your garden will not look as neat as with traditional methods, that shouldn’t stop you from using hay mulch.
However, if you want a beautiful, tidy garden, this is probably not the method for you.
Another downside to the Ruth Stout method is finding enough material to cover your floor. If you have a small garden without many trees and you don’t have a lawn, you will probably need to buy mulch. Hay can be hard to find at certain times of the year.
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