How to prepare a garden bed sustainably

The first step to growing a garden is to select a sunny location with workable soil, and prepare the bed for planting. Although you can simply stick the seeds in the ground and hope for the best, you won’t get the same results as you would get from a prepared garden bed.

If you’re reading about garden preparation here on Rinexii, chances are you’re also growing a garden for the planet, not just for your own pleasure. That means you want to prepare the garden bed in such a way that it won’t increase your carbon footprint.

Preparing the garden bed

Your first step will be to get rid of any grass in the area. This means either removing the sod by hand, building a raised garden bed above it, or smothering the grass. Smothering is by far the easiest method.

To smother the grass, simply lay down cardboard or other opaque surfaces so that the grass receives no light. Eventually the grass will die, and you’ll be left with a bare patch of ground to work with.

Although you might think tilling would be the next step, tilling can release carbon into the atmosphere, leach nitrogen and other nutrients which you need for good plant growth, wash away your soil, and destroy soil structure.

Instead, apply about 2″ of compost on top of your bare patch of soil, and dig holes for your plants. How big the hole is depends on what you are planting. It could be a tiny hole for a seed, or a big hole for a large tomato plant.

When your garden is planted, cover the remainder of the garden with a thick layer of mulch. The mulch will keep weed seeds from being able to germinate, and make the garden easier to tend.

How much does it help?

It’s hard to say. There has not been any measurement done on carbon stored below what we normally cut, to find out exactly how much carbon is sequestered through the normal plant growth cycle.

Researcher Randal Reeder, retired Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer says, “If all the land farmed around the world was in no-till, we could probably reverse climate change.”

This is probably an exaggeration, since only 26% of current carbon emissions come from farming, but if all of that was removed and all agriculture land become a carbon sink, it’s very possible that it could be close to a solution for climate change.

If you choose to use no-till as your gardening method, it’s likely that you will sequester more carbon than you release by a significant amount, and as an added bonus, it’s less work too.

For more reading about the no till method, we highly recommend this article that gives in-depth details, as well as this one that talks about the research on carbon sequestering in agriculture.

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