In 2014 we moved back to Iowa and even though we lived intown I was determined that spring (2015) to have a huge garden.
My motherinlaw graciously let me make a fool of myself on a quarter acer of her land that was not being used and had pretty much became prairie.
I burned it, I tilled it , I planted it, I weeded and weeded and weeded and after a month the weeds surpassed my ability to keep up. That year ruined any ambition of having another huge garden.
Mid 2015 we bought a house in the country. And after some skeptical reading I decided to try a "small" garden (Four foot wide by 100 feet long) using a no till /mulch /layered system. I started the fall of 2015 by preparing the area.
Straw or compost
We had a barn that had accumulated about a foot of hay and straw in the loft. That fall I cleaned out one side with a couple trips of the pickup and moved it to a planned section in the yard.
Prepare in the fall
That fall I prepared the area (which was lawn) by measuring out and marking the areas I wanted. Then I mowed it as short as possible (Lowest lawnmower setting without hitting the ground). No sprays, no digging, no tilling.
I was doing this for the first time I experimented a bit with using an under layer of either cardboard, 4-5 layers of newspaper or just hay.
Cardboard did best however, it did come up in some areas were I didn't put down enough mulch. My advice is that if you can't lay down at least 12" of mulch either lay down five layers of newspaper or cardboard then a layer 4-6" of strawmulch. the more the better.
if you use newspaper or cardboard wet it down first. Lay it down so the sides overlap then lay the straw on top. Water the straw down well too so it doesn't become a big tumble weed.
Walked around a bit on top to help mash things down.....then... let it sit all fall and winter until the following spring.
Winter garden plans
In the dead of winter when you have been locked in side for what sees to be eternity, nothing helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel then planning your garden.
Forthe first year I decided I wanted the garden to be compact to help minimize weeds as much as possible. I decided to plant a three sisters garden (corn, beans, squash). Basic and simple.
I started with planting our corn first -- a variety of Indian Corn and a sweet corn. Ideally as soon as night temps and soil temps are above 50f you can plant the first seed. I was a bit late to the game due to the fence project.
Once the corn was about four inches high I planted the beans in between the rows of corn.
And once the beans sprouted up I planted pumpkins every four - five feet.
somehere in the middle of this I found some leftover seeds for zinnias and my sister sent Bentley some sun flowers so we got those in the mix too.
The only thing I had trouble with were our chickens going in and scratching around eating some of the seeds and killing some seedlings.
It is now August and I would have to say the system is very low maintenance overall. Minimal weeding every couple weeks is needed along the borders. Minimal watering mostly due to a wet spring and summer. And so far some good food.
This year once the pumpkins are harvested we will dump another layer of hay / mulch down and start the whole process over again.
Now that we have sheep and chickens we can also dual purpose the hay they use for bedding through the winters.
I already have my next area under planning to expand our crop selection and can't wait.