It just occurred to me this weekend that gardening might be a good topic to include on the blog. Sure, I suppose you could practice herbalism by simply ordering all your herbs online and never actually meeting the plants in person, but what kind of way is that to make friends? Call me old fashioned, but I think the best way to connect with a plant is a lot like how you connect with other people: encourage growth, nurture it, visit and observe it regularly, be a good listener. You might be surprised to discover that you’re beginning to form “relationships” with your herbal allies.

Me sweating, the dog chilling on the gi-normous pile of dirt. Smart dog.

First you’ll want to prepare a garden bed—the wee planties need a place to grow. The best time to build up garden beds is generally in the fall, but I’ve never been good at taking my own advice, so this weekend we were celebrating 105 degrees in Richmond by building garden beds. Because that’s my idea of fun, apparently 🙂 Three beds enclosed with landscaping timbers for fall vegetables, and one bed enlarging the bee and butterfly garden—a lovely spot for herbs and beneficials. We’ll probably just do a wattle fence around the bee and butterfly garden this fall – not necessary, but it helps deter the dogs.

My favorite method is sheet mulching / lasagna gardening. It’s comparatively simple—no digging up sod and no tilling and only minimal weeding.

Raised beds for fall vegetables in varying degrees of completion

Step one: lay out soaked cardboard (easiest to use a wading pool) or thick wet sections of newspaper down in a layer where you want the new garden bed to be. The soaked cardboard will suffocate the grass underneath it and prevent it from popping back up, even with wiregrass!

Step two: top the cardboard with a layer topsoil, compost, sand – whatever you use as your growing medium. I use a mix that’s equal parts compost, topsoil, and sand, which provides plentiful nutrients and good drainage. Depth can vary, but I generally aim for around 8 inches.

Step three: mulch over the soil with straw (not hay). This does wonders for helping with retaining moisture, as well as further discouraging weeds.

Step four: each fall, add more compost and more straw to replenish the bed.

And that’s it! Pretty simple, eh? After years of digging up sod, tilling, battling weeds, I’m soooo glad to have found this method. I’ll never go back, and my back is ever so grateful.

Lasagna gardening/sheet mulching - cardboard, then soil, then straw mulch