The Individual Garden

In a rainforest, even a temperate rainforest, everything can grow like stink. The larger the farm/garden, the more work nature creates for you

You need tactics: weeding is impossible. Poisons should be verboten. Machinery is expensive–in many ways.



  • If you have a good source of compost, many kinds of weeds can simply be covered with a good layer of compost and you can plant right into that.
  • If you have old hay, you can put that down first; then some compost; then your seeds or sets. Or leave it all winter, to start rotting and integrating, and then add a layer of compost in May at planting time.
  • Ground covers. Italian oregano is great for those areas which you want to be green all year. but are not reseeding. We use a few others for temporary cover for a year or for crops like rhubarb where you don’t want to weed in the winter. Let the cover grow and then just pull it back in March to let the rhubarb flourish. I call those fragile covers. Compost does not have to be perfect to work. Doing this three or four years in a row helps build up both the height of your beds and the richness of your worm layer.


  • We are experimenting this year with setting some grassed areas aside for regeneration.  If you have a large lawn, a crop of hay in a portion of your lawn looks good and helps offset the carbon emissions you make while mowing the formal portions.
  • In one area, we’re using the invasive properties of mint and tarragon and marjoram to wage a running battle against other competitors. Once or twice a year, we give it a little edge with the weed-wacker to take off the top layer where the grasses are putting their heads up.


  • Seeds are cheaper than weeding.
  • There are no bylaws for gardens.
  • If there’s a bare patch, get something growing as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t worry about compatibility; nature doesn’t. If your bed has 15 different kinds of flowers and vegetables in it, they probably all love all the companions.

Vegetables will flourish whether  your beds are level, raised or even sunken.

Dedicated pathways  where you walk are the key because compacted soil is the enemy of strong plant growth. The more easily a plant  can send roots into the soil, the faster the plant can absorb the nutrients it  needs and the more drought-resistant it becomes. If the plant has to spend  energy pushing roots into hardened soil, the plant has less energy to grow and  produce well. In nature, meadow mice, moles, earthworms and other critters tunnel  throughout the soil — and thus counteract compaction — and humans and other  large critters do not walk over the soil often. But in a garden, we walk back  and forth a great deal, and our footsteps definitely compact the soil.

Don’t over plan or the rain will do you in. Paths can be narrow or wide, straight or winding. Always  make a few main paths wide enough to accommodate a garden cart or wheelbarrow  comfortably. You can use wooden stakes, pipes or rebar to mark the corners  of the beds. The stakes can do double duty as hose guides — simply slip a length  of plastic pipe loosely over each, and hoses will slide around them easily.

Growing vegetables in garden beds is far more efficient than maintaining  single rows of crops. From the paths on either side of a bed, you can easily  weed and harvest crops in a bed 3 to 4 feet wide. A good guide is at