I started a Permaculture class last week in the Oakland hills (OH YEAH!). Working outside in this glorious summer weather has been quite the treat. After planting and adding new drip irrigation lines this morning we settled into our classroom to watch Ruth Stout's Garden.
Ruth gardened conventionally for 15 years then...
"One morning in early April I went out to the garden, I couldn't do anything, just went out to shed a tear because I couldn't begin to plant, the plow man hadn't come. I walked over to the asparagus and I said 'we don't have to plow for you, why do we have to plow for the other vegetables?' and the asparagus said 'you don't, go ahead and plant'. If the asparagus had said that to anybody with any sense they wouldn't have paid any attention, they would have said, 'well you are a perennial' because asparagus like a tree or like a rosebush just comes up every year. But anyways, since I wasn't very smart, I just ran and got my seeds. And that's been going on for 35 years. I never had a plow man again."
No digging, no watering, no weeding, no fertilizing, and no spraying. She just plants and picks. Her secret is MULCH!! MAGICAL MULCH! She covers her garden floor with straw that protects the soil, regulates temperature, and keeps the soil moist while it rots and fertilizes the ground. SUPER COOL!
"I suppose it does more or less give me a feeling of importance when I come across an article mentioning the Stout System, yet I am cheated out of the full value of that sensation because I've never been able really to identify the whole thing with that little girl who was certainly going to be great and famous some day. What a disgusted look she would have given anyone who would have offered her the title of Renowned Mulcher!
And it borders on the unenthralling to have the conversation at social gatherings turn to slugs and cabbageworms the minute I show up. And if some professor of psychology, giving an association-of-ideas test to a bunch of gardeners, should say "moldy hay" or "garbage," I'm afraid that some of them would come out with "Ruth Stout." Would anyone like that?"
Ruth lived to be 96. She was a quaker who always did things her own way (which included gardening in the nude).