Tess’ Till-less Technique

Tess’ Till-less Technique

There has been quite a bit of interest regarding my ‘Till-less’ garden method.  Since I was creating a new space this morning for several tomato plants I decided to document and share with you step-by-step.

As you can tell it was EARLY this morning – thanks to our Southern heat and humidity, I have to get out there before it gets too hot!

I am using newspaper this morning but you can use cardboard if you choose.  Newspaper takes less time as you can soak the newspaper in a large container all at one time while you are doing something else.  As you would expect, soaking cardboard takes a bit longer.  I have an old cooler that I use for my newspaper that works like a charm.

  • Fill the cooler with water.
  • Separate newspaper by sections, as this has proven to be about the right thickness, and put in water.  Do not use the comics or ads as the intense color and glossiness do not work well with edibles.
  •  Once the paper has been soaked through and through, cover the intended planting area, overlapping the paper to prevent weeds coming through.
  • Once I have it laid out, I soak it once more with the hose.

For the next layer I use homemade compost.  (Will add a post on composting next.)  If you do not have compost, this layer could be fall leaves, mulch, hay, straw or sawdust.  For me, compost has worked the best but, due to the time factor involved in the breakdown of homemade compost, I have been known to use leaves or mulch.  I am guessing that I use about 2 – 3 inches for this layer.  Once this layer completely covers the soaked newspaper, you will need to soak it thoroughly as well.

Now for the top layer.  See how easy this is???


Peat moss!!!

This seems to be the magic that holds it all together so that you do not need a siding like wood, bricks, etc.  This is the kind of peat moss I use.  It is available at Lowe’s in our area.  I am sure there are other brands out there but notice this is 100% organic which is important to me as I am trying to be 100% organic in my gardening methods.


Once again, I put down 2 – 3 inches of peat moss and soak it through and through with a mist spray.  If you notice runoff, stop and go do something else and come back in a few to wet again.  Before it is ‘set’ there can be runoff and you do not want to loose any of this precious commodity.




Once your peat moss has been soaked, you are ready to plant!!!  For this particular bed, which is beside our driveway, I am planting three volunteer tomato plants, two basil plants and one petunia just for looks. 🙂

I cannot tell you how many volunteer tomato plants came up this year.  I once heard that volunteers will not produce.  Not true!  I did an experiment last year with one of the volunteers that turned out to be my best-producing Roma tomato plant of the season.   I am excited to see what the three of these will have in store for us.

And there you have it…it is just that simple and the rewards are many…

I planted these green beans the first weekend in May using this same method and this is what they look like now.  Notice there are no containers whatsoever and everything stays right where it is supposed to be.

Because I am gardening on my front lawn with limited space, I overpopulate everything I plant for greater yields.  Based on my experience you really don’t need that much space between plants.  Doing it this way also helps eliminate some of the weeds and who doesn’t like that?

Here is a view of ‘most’ of my garden…I say most because I plant around my lamppost (asparagus, rosemary, tomatoes) and mailbox (Scarlet runners, chocolate mint, asparagus).  I am still waiting on my sweet potato slips which will fill the void you see in the front row.  As you can see I like to add in some ornamental plants just to dress things up a bit.  After all, it is on my front lawn.  🙂

That’s all there is to Tess’ Till-less Garden which  is a combination of several methods I have  implemented; otherwise known as ‘Lasagna Gardening’ and ‘Square Foot Gardening’.  You just have to get out there and get started and, before you know it, you will have 5 rows and be putting edibles in every nook and cranny…because YOU CAN!  Enjoy y’all!!!  Time for me to get outside~



  1. Teresa Powell says

    Tess, you said you were going to add info about compost, is that on your website? I’m very interested in that as well. Thanks!

    • Hi Teresa, Sent you an email regarding a former post (3/29/11) with some info on composting. I will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have…

  2. What are volunteer tomato plants?

    • Hi Pam~
      Volunteer tomatoes are plants that just come up from the previous year’s plants or from my compost (I make my own compost so it has tomato seeds, etc. in it and often times those seeds will sprout – I have started two avocado trees this way)! I had always been told that these ‘volunteers’ would not produce tomatoes but, time and time again, they are my biggest producers!!! And to think I used to pull them up… Now I transplant them wherever I want them and pot the rest to give away to family and friends!

  3. Chloe Lambe says

    Questions about your growing method! Do you think this still needs to be over good soil? A lot of our area that we would like to garden on is tough red mud and not as much grass… do you think the layering would still help and allow growth? do you recommend ever doing more than 1 layer of newspaper/compost?

    • Hi Chloe~
      The underlying soil has not mattered one bit because the roots get their nutrients from the layers you will put on top of the ground! I have always done one layer of either newspaper or cardboard (which ever you use make sure you soak it completely before adding your next layer), then a little organic peat moss (which I get at Lowe’s)- soak it as well, then compost (which I create myself over the year with kitchen scraps, etc. – there is a post about that as well http://www.crazygoodcreations.com/gardening/composting/ )-soak it also and finally another healthy layer of the peat moss which I spray lightly several times to help it ‘set’. Then I plant! My yields have been amazing using this method. The next year I repeat the process… Let me know if I can help you in any way. I will be more than happy to~

      • Chloe Lambe says

        awesome! thank you! we had a garden one year at our last house and it was ridiculous. but it had previously been a farmers garden for who knows how long. so the soil was amazing. we grew stuff without much effort.. and the soil where we are now is a little bit of a different story.. but i think this will absolutely help!!! thanks for sharing all these tips on your blog! i keep up with it and thoroughly enjoy all this learning!


  1. […] method is easy – NO DIGGING OR TILLING!  I invite you to join me…many have and LOVE […]

  2. […] Prepare your beds for late February and early March planting, as well as spring planting.  Don’t freak…there is no need to do extra work like tilling, weeding or removing layers of grass.  If this is your first year trying “Tess’ Till-less Method” here are the instructions. […]

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