No-till Gardening


The specific approach to No-Till Gardening of interest here is known as the Ruth Stout Method. It would also be proper to call it, “Deep Mulch Gardening.” The idea is to completely cover the patch of ground to be gardened with mulch: hay is best.

The ideal mulch would be grass or hay harvested from one's own property. Any kind of compostable matter helps, including leaves. However, for ease of access to the plants at harvest time, it is best to use just hay around the plants. If you purchase mulch, be certain it has not been treated with chemicals, or it could stifle the growth of your plants. For this reason, straw and hay should be purchased directly from a farmer, not from a supermarket.

The mulch is not just for covering and therefore stifling the growth of vegetation that would compete with the crops. When the mulch decomposes, it becomes soil. Over time, this method of gardening builds soil, and it is rich soil at that. As such, any non-organic type of mulch such as polyethylene film (black plastic) is unacceptable.

Deep mulch gardening not only builds soil, but it protects the soil that is already present. Standard methods of plant agriculture leave the soil bare, where it easily dries in the sun. The result is that plants need to be watered regularly, or they are doomed to fail. Covering soil with mulch has the same effect as grass, which is that it protects the soil from getting dried out by the sun. Not only that, but when hay gets wet and starts to decompose, it retains some moisture, and that moisture remains in contact with the soil.

Overall, deep mulch gardening reduces the need for supplemental water, soil, and nutrients, it builds soil, and it helps to retain the soil that is already present, both by covering it and by not tilling it.

External Resources

Videos “Gardening without work -Ruth Stout 1of2.” Footage of Ruth Stout discussing her gardening method. “337 lbs of Potatoes! NO digging, NO watering, and VERY LITTLE work!”

-Growing potatoes using the Ruth Stout method.

-From their YouTube channel, it looks like 2 years later they are still using the Ruth Stout Method.


The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book by Ruth Stout. It can be previewed and read for free (with an account) on

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