How to cultivate with mulching and without plowing

garden with mulching or mulching

Every year I have the same problem with the garden. We prepare the land, we already plant after a few weeks weeds or adventitious grasses have taken over everything. Besides, I don't have any tractor and everything has to be worked with the hoe.

This year I am going to try to solve these two problems. I have tried to prepare the land by covering it with mulch and leaving it ready to cultivate without plowing. The first results, as you are going to see, have been promising.

What is all this

Well, I am simply going to tell you how I have prepared the garden with ideas taken from permaculture, blogs and YouTube channels. With 2 objectives

  1. Avoid the appearance of adventitious grasses or weeds that always invade the entire garden.
  2. Avoid plowing and working the land.

In dry areas straw padding is used, if you live in a very humid area they are made with compost. Here the compost will be used as compost.

Initial state

When I started working the garden it was like this.

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orchard land preparation

It may not be well appreciated but these herbs exceed 1,5m after a spring with a lot of rain and having the garden completely abandoned.

weed and weed in the garden

I don't have much time to take care of him. the most time I dedicate to it is in summer.

adventitious herbs in abandoned garden

I start to fix everything to try to keep it in condition continuously and with much less effort.


I start by clearing most of the area that we are going to use for vegetables, etc. I use my Bosch electric brush cutter to clear. It does not appear in the photos but it is a real marvel.

In this way we have cut the herbs at ground level. in a normal situation it might be enough and we could. I had to use the disc and then to leave it on the ground a steel wire that is much more powerful than the classic nylon.

The terrain remains like this.

cleared orchard

I am going to take advantage of the already made installation of drip irrigation, although it does not come out where I would like, but I will adjust it.

Land preparation

After clearing the brush, I was going to plant directly without working the land but it was hard, very hard and with a lot of unevenness. And above all full of grass. And the grass, if we leave roots, will grow very strongly so I wanted to remove as much as possible. As an initial treatment to the land and from here to continue without plowing.

land preparation without tractor for permaculture

As the earth was so hard and we did not expect rain, I wet the ground to soften it. I don't have a tractor, it has to be with a hoe. After wetting it, it is left for 2 or 3 days until you see that it can work well.

work the land

This is how it looks after working it with the hoe and raking it

preparation for cultivating without plowing

Loose soil that I will try to improve over time with compost. At the moment it is what there is. Very hard and clayey.

clay soil to improve

I've pulled out lots of grass roots and everything that's left is sure to get us into compromise. At each site they have their weeds that are particularly bad and difficult to control. In my garden is the common grass (Cynodon dactylon) and peppermint (Mentha spicata). We came up with planting once and it has spread like a plague.

adventitious herb roots. Grama

Padding preparation

The padding is a layer that we put on top of the earth so that it can withstand the humidity of the earth. You can use many materials, from mowing scraps, to bark, etc. but I'm going to use straw.

preparation padding with cardboard and straw

I combine the mulch with a layer of cardboard to prevent weeds from getting out. These will be covered and when they do not see the sun they will end up dead. Some people use black plastic for this, they sell polyvinyl rolls for planting. but I'm not amused. I like cardboard better than it will degrade and integrate into the earth.

cardboard for padding and anti-grass mesh

I have used 2 types of cardboard, on the one hand cartons from appliance boxes and from Amazon, but since I did not have enough I bought a cardboard roll from Leroy Merlin. If you are going to buy, notice that there are 2 of the same, one in the packaging area (€ 9 for 10m) and another in the painting area (€ 8 for 25m). So we take the paint one.


The main drip installation was already assembled. The traditional rigid rubber drip has always been used with the drippers which was where you had to plant. Here I am going to innovate too.

I will use a 16mm exudation rubber compatible with traditional connections with a flow rate of 4L hour. There are several types depending on the flow (garden and gardening) the garden releases more water.

exudation gum

I have taken advantage of the main installation that I had already done. I was doubting the separation between tires. If you put 3 strips to generate a whole surface in which to plant. Because the exudation rubbers with sufficient pressure wet the ground about 12-15 cm on each side of the rubber. With 3 I would have had a constantly wet 60 cm strip.

irrigation preparation by exudation

In the end we leave it as you see in the image. We are always in time to modify it if we want to test.

This combination of exudate rubber, cardboard and straw causes that we have a lot of humidity in the garden and that snails and slugs proliferate.


mulching preparation

With the land worked and leveled and the tires on. we put the cardboard on top. Notice that after putting it on I have marked with a pen where the rubber goes for when we plan to know where to make the hole.

orchard mulching

This is the first strip we did. After this we have expanded it much more and placed cardboard and padding also in the passage areas.

I advise you to do so. If not, the herbs immediately rise to your little terrace.

To put cardboard in a large area you do not have to put one next to the other, but they have to overlap so that the weeds have nowhere to get out.

Planted and straw

When finishing the cartons, we put the padding. I'm going to put straw. you can find it where they sell feed and chickens. I have bought several bales of straw at € 3 each, with 2 bales we have for the 2 phases that we have created, and I have taken 2 more to add more when there is little left mulch.

We started with the strip as I have taught you but then we have expanded to the passage areas. That is, we have put cardboard and straw not only where we plant but also where we walk, because the grass invaded everything and thus it is much more controlled

garden with mulch or mulch

Here we appreciate the two terraces and the 3 walkways. We have put much more padding in the planting areas than in the passage areas.

To give you an idea after several layers in the growing area there is about 15 cm of straw.

How it evolves

It is the first time we prepare this. I speak in the plural because it is something that we have done among the 4 of the family. My daughters are delighted.

I have to say that after 2 months we have not been invaded by herbs, it is almost perfect. He begins to see how there are herbs that go through the cardboard, but everything is very controllable.

zucchini in vegetable garden with mulch
zucchini detail in vegetable garden with padding

Where you really have to keep control is in the hole where you plant, because as you remove the cardboard, it comes out there.

finished garden cultivate without plowing

After 2 months of the first row, it still holds up very well, we have to remove some grass that comes out because the cardboard has degraded in the rains, more than 100 l / m2 have fallen this summer in strong storms.

Let's see how it evolves and how we prevent the herbs from colonizing everything


Things that I have come to realize over the weeks.

I have planted vegetables that need a lot of water like zucchini with others that have times when they need water stress, go thirsty, like for example cayenne. That if they do not go thirsty they sting less and everything has been together I cannot control it.

Next time you have to plant separately.

Orchard photo gallery

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