The Virtues of a Messy Garden

October 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Compost/mulch, Permaculture, Soils

Friday 10-5-2012

I used to have such a clean, neat garden. When annuals were finished growing, I would dutifully clean up all the leaves and stems to be carted away to the compost pile. After mowing my lawn, I would deposit all the grass clippings in my compost pile. When I cleaned the chicken coop, I would put the manure in the compost pile. I think you’re getting the point. My systems of input and output were connected because I was doing the hard labor to make it so.


Now I have a messy garden. My leaves and stems of my old annuals get left in place. My grass clippings and chicken manure are spread around the garden. The only things that get taken out are fruits and vegetables. Even weeds are pulled up and left on the surface to compost in place. While it might look unsightly to some, the benefits can’t be ignored.


Benefits of a Messy Garden

1. More nutrients returned to the garden by composting in place. A traditional compost pile will lose some of those valuable nutrients.


2.  A lot less work!!!


3.  Insect predators overwinter in the garden debris. This one may be a double-edged sword to some, because many gardeners advise against messy gardens because of overwintering pests. I think that if you do a nice job of crop rotation, then you will be fine, but you will also have the benefits of the insect predators available as soon as any pest outbreaks occur.


4. If you clean up your garden before winter, it will be bare, and more topsoil and nutrients will be lost. If it is messy like the forest, the soil and soil life will be preserved for next season.

The above picture contains: Potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, lambsquarters, raspberries, blackberries, gourds, arugula, kale, watermelon, cucumbers, radishes, and sunchokes

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