Homesteading: Permaculture and No Till Gardening

Homesteading:  A weekly account of our journey to becoming off grid homesteaders.  Our path will be long as we are only paying in cash and our funds are very limited.  Mike and I have no idea what we're doing so we'll be learning as we go.  I know we'll make mistakes and that's ok.  It's all part of the process.  

We would love to read about your homesteading experiences, so if you'd like to share your favorite resources, tips, funny stories, recipes, books, website or even just a photo from the week, please leave a link in the comments.

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We're hanging out at the library today, immersed in a pile of books related to all things homesteading.  The method of permaculture, and especially no till gardening, has been on the forefront of my mind, as we decide how we want to move forward with feeding our family from the earth and not the grocery store.

I first discovered permaculture a few years ago on a blog Farmama.  Sadly, she's not blogging anymore, but her visions of small scale agriculture were inspirational.  I remember one post in particular where she wrote about no till gardening.  Instead of turning over the soil at the beginning and end of each season, the soil remained undisturbed.  It allowed the soil surface and micro organisms to work together, creating natural aeration (worms love the layers of cardboard and organic matter),  significantly reducing weeds, retaining soil carbon, and so much more.

This no till method, it feels just about right for us.

For now, we're hoarding cardboard.  Eliminating weeds and grass is the first step of the process.  Just as soon as the snow melts!

Here are a few links we've liked:

Midwest Permaculture


Do you have any experience with no till gardening?


  1. I miss Sarah's blog too, she was very inspirational, the no till method sounds interesting. I would love to know more about it.
    Have a great weekend.

    1. Thank you, Linda! For the life of me, I couldn't remember Sarah's name. :)

  2. What beautiful knit is that that you are working on in the picture?

    1. I got so excited about gardening, I completely forgot to mention the knitting! The yarn is Malabrigo and the pattern is from the book Building Blocks. A friend and I are taking the once a month class, but aren't happy with the book's format, so we're redesigning the whole thing ourselves. :)

  3. We are gearing up for our first garden this year & we've decided to try vermicomposting. Should be interesting! Can't wait to keep up with how you guys like permaculture!

  4. Hello there, I'm new to your space and am loving the similarities. Your dyeing adventures mirror mine own right now...I just finished dyeing with black beans, onion skins and now I'm using plum bark. I'm curious if you spin your own wool or if you dye storebought? We are also big-dream gardeners on a small-scale size :) I used to do no till gardening with cardboard til a local old-timer mentioned that cardboard leeches lots of glue into the earth. I switched to stacks of black and white newsprint instead. What do you think?
    xo Jules

    1. Jules, I have been itching to try black beans for the beautiful blues! Plum bark sounds intriguing. Our backyard is filled with wild plum bushes. Did it give a warm gold color?

      I did wonder about the glue in the cardboard, too. It seems that a large portion of newspapers are printed with soy ink, but that some do use the toxic petroleum based ink. I'll have to do some more research about the papers in our area. We don't get a newspaper, but could pick up endless amounts from the recycling center!

    2. Ack, not newsprint! It's covered in BPA, not something you want in your garden. We are picky about which cardboard we use. We won't use glued cardboard where we grow food. Have you read abour hugulculture beds? We started using them 3 years ago and they have been amazing.

  5. One thing we've discovered about no-till on the farm is that you create a hard layer in the soil and the water cannot drain properly. Every so often they have to go in and use a ripper - a long tooth - and rip that layer apart.

    We also still fall plow the clay fields. Again, because of compaction.

    Just something to keep in mind. My garden is tilled since it's cold and wet well into May. BUT, the moment it warms in June, it easily passes other's who've had crops in weeks before me.

    I'm a good spring gardener, but by mid August I'm pulling up the weeds to get to the potatoes. It's just a lack of time. I've also discovered that potatoes, onions, peppers, asparagus, strawberries, raspberries and tomatoes are the easiest for me to grow. I've tried everything and anything and this summer, I'm just going to stick with what works and buy the rest from other farmers.

    Keep it simple and reasonable is the best lesson I've learned in the last 14yrs.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing. I've found all those fruits and veggies the easiest to grow, too, in this climate. Simple is the goal!

  6. Hi Liz,
    I'll look forward to hearing more about your experience with no till farming.


    P.S. I REALLY miss Farmama blog! I still connect with Sara from time to time. Her blog was so wonderful.

  7. I also tried the no til gardening. I just had a small space. I don't think I had it deep enough. The squash and zuccini did good though. I sure wish gardening was easy. But I do it old fashioned way. It works for me. But I do heavy mulch, which helps. And lots of sheep, goat and chicken manure. Plus manure tea.

    I miss Sarah's blog too. She was so inspirational, in everything. I have been following your blog for a few years now.

    I have wool sheep and hair sheep. Getting ready for lambs in the next few weeks. I am going to be taking some classes on how to go from the sheep to the sweater. Or shawl. And the natural dyes are so amazing.

    I wish you all the best. And happy gardening! You can look on my blog for some new babies!

  8. We are a permaculture farm in Australia. we have a market garden where we use chickens to weed, fertilise and control pests on the beds and then we place mulch in to the domes ( where the chooks live). They scratch through the mulch turning it over and eating any weed seeds. We then move the dome onto the next bed and plant stright into the mulch. Elsewhere in the garden we use the no dig method.We also use newspaper.PS I am visiting from Small Things

  9. Hi Liz,
    We had "virgin" ungardened land when we moved here four years ago and the soil is made up of lots of clay. I hand dug the grass/weeds off and then hand dug the soil one shovel full at a time to loosen things up to start.
    Then what we have been doing is dumping compost right on top (from a dairy farm that closed down 10 years ago - so it is like black gold, minus the plethora of weed seeds). Then we let the chickens poop and dig through it. After planting and the plants establish themselves, I add the chicken compost (has quite a bit of straw in it) to mulch the walkways to break down more and become part of the garden the next year.
    This year we may till for the first time as it may be time to try and mix this nice top layer in with the clay.
    Looking forward to following your first season on your homestead.

  10. I liked the choice of video you guys linked to, great post.

    -Evergreen Tree & Shrub Inc.