Here at the farm, we practice a no-till farming technique in all of our gardens. From transforming an area of grass or weeds into a new garden area, we hardly ever have to put a shovel in the ground or manually till the soil with a hoe. Without tilling the soil, micro communities are left intact, carbon and nitrogen is added to the growing area through different mulches, and the grass and weeds are smothered and broken down to create a rich top layer of soil to grow in. The soil is more aerated, has increased water infiltration, and has a more diverse community of organisms therefore improving the quality of soil. No-till means no back breaking shoveling and lets nature run its course!
In preparation for the spring, I have been expanding the garden behind the farmhouse and creating a new area to plant herbs in front of the barn. I placed a thick layer of cardboard down on the area that I want to plant in come spring and then I dumped a few inches of mulch right on top. Mulch is any kind of material placed down on an area to essentially cover what was there. Grass clippings, hay and straw, seaweed, fine bark, wood shavings, newspaper, yard waste, leaves, and small tidbits that can be found in the forest like pine needles and twigs, are all examples of mulch. I used a combination of some composted cow manure, crushed up leaves, pine needles, and small wood chips.
Some gardeners then layer newspaper, grass clippings, and then pile on a few inches of wood chips right on top but since the mulch I used was a mixture, I decided not to layer with newspaper and grass clippings. After the final wood chips go down, the area is prepared to sit through winter and do its work turning itself into a nice fertile layer of soil.