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~


Tess’ Till-less, Organic Garden 2012

Tess’ Till-less, Organic Garden 2012

Do you mean you can have an organic  garden with lush, delicious veggies with NO tilling and no harmful pesticides?  YES, you can!

It begins by putting cardboard or newspaper right on top of the grass (where it will get sun for at least 6 hours per day…the front lawn in my case).  Soak it through and through with water, add a 2″ – 3″ layer of compost such as leaves or your homemade compost, soak it thoroughly as well.



Now add a 3″ – 4″  layer of peat moss.  Dampen it with a light spray as you do not want to cause runoff initially.  Once it has settled it won’t go anywhere, trust me.  Notice there aren’t any boards or siding of any kind.  The truth of the matter is…you just don’t need them.  I have been doing this method of gardening for three years now and, to me, building a ‘box’ or border is just a waste of money better spent on seeds, peat moss or GMO-free seeds.




That is it!  You are ready to plant, water, wait and reap the benefits!  It really is just that simple!!!

If you would like additional information, there are earlier posts in my Gardening section with details on  materials to use, how to build a compost bin, as well as what should/should not be composted.

If you do not find what you are looking for in my earlier posts, feel free to ask questions…I will gladly share what has/ has not worked for me!

This is a super simple, amazingly satisfying, not to mention DELICIOUS, way to feed your family fresh, homegrown veggies.  You will be surprised just how differently your bounty tastes.  Happy planting everyone!!!


Spring = New Life = Happiness


Cilantro and Dill © 4 2011

Spring has sprung here in the Piedmont and this Southern girl could not be happier…or any more tired…as I have been busy making preparations for my 2011 lasagna gardening ventures.  My latest experiment involved planting organic vegetable seeds in my Aerogarden.  What is an Aerogarden you might ask ?  Well, it is one of my best gardening purchases ever.  I found mine at Tuesday Morning; however, you can find their products online at aerogarden.com.  The Aerogarden is known as “The World’s First Kitchen Garden Appliance” and uses hydroponics, lighting, nutrients and built-in timers to make growing just about anything a pleasurable experience. This picture shows the cilantro and dill I grew inside all winter, for use in everything from salads to guacamole, using my Aerogarden 7.  I have since transplanted them outside and they are growing beautifully.

Since everything else I venture to grow has done so well in my Aerogarden I decided to try starting my veggies from seed at home rather than spending money purchasing the plants from a retailer.  It is amazing how being unemployed sparks creativity. 🙂

Aerogarden – Day 6
© 4/19/2011

This is day 6 (right).  My cucumbers, squash and okra have sprouted and are growing unbelievably fast!  I also planted peppers (jalapeno and green), tomatoes (Roma and Cherry), basil, marigolds and zinnias.

Squash and Zucchini from AG © 4 27 2011

This is what my squash and zucchini look like today (left), 13 days after planting.  I have transplanted them to pots already.  Aren’t they beautiful???  I am hardening them so they will be ready for planting outside in my lasagna garden May 3, 2011, as that is the best day for planting above ground crops per the almanac .  ‘Hardening’ means that I take them outside each day, increasing the time daily, allowing them to become acclimated to the outside light and temperature gradually.

As you can see from this picture, it won’t be long at all until my other seedlings are ready to transfer to pots in preparation for the hardening and planting process.

Seedlings © 4/26/2011

To say that I am excited is an understatement.  There is so much I want to share with you:

1) The progress of the green peas, Yukon Gold potatoes and asparagus

2)  My experience using sawdust as a border

3)  Preparation techniques, Sweet ‘T’ style, for last years’ lasagna rows

But right now, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the out-of-doors is calling my name so….until next time….if you need me, I will be in my little piece of heaven on earth….my garden!!!  Chow~