[Market-farming] Ruth Stout

Karen Sutherland ksutherland at hampshire.edu
Tue Nov 30 17:33:00 EST 2004

When I started gardening in Western Mass some 30 years ago (whew!), 
there was maybe 2 inches of clay ick, on top of broken shale mixed with 
clay ick, on top of solid shale.  Six years ago, when I moved to 
Dominica, I left soil in my WMA garden that was  2+ foot deep, gorgeous, 
live soft fluffy soil (although still basically clayey in 
character!!!).  My vegetable plants had almost never been  troubled by 
disease or insects, despite growing tomatoes in the same place (the 
sunniest) for all that time.   I LOVE RUTH STOUT and thank serendipity 
that her books were my introduction to gardening.  Each year I put 
generous amounts of (spoiled) hay minimum 6" thick.  Every few years I 
added some manure and compost from my kitchen waste and oak leaves rot 
pile.  Other years I'd dig out the tops of the paths (also routinely 
covered with hay and leaves) and add that to the tops of the permanent 
beds.  A few times I added rock dust of one type or another.  Every 
Spring, I'd pull back the mulch to let the beds warm.  After warm and 
planted and a good rain (and I had a chance to welcome any desired 
volunteers), I'd fit the then soft hay around the plants and everywhere 
else.  This was the only time consuming job with her system.  Weeding 
was a breeze -- the plants that made it through the thick mulch were 
weakly rooted and easy to pull and throw on top of the mulkch.  I cannot 
express how beautiful the soil was and how pleased I am with her system. 

I am trying now in Dominica to see if her system is one of the Northern 
agricultural "truths" that translates to tropical ag.....  or is another 
"truth" I have to unlearn.

Best wishes to all,


*Karen Sutherland **
**Roots Farm**
Organic Produce : Fruits, Roots, Vegetables & Herbs*
Cockrane, Dominica
rootsfarm at marpin.dm <mailto:rootsfarm at marpin.dm>


herbthyme at simcon.net wrote:

>I would just like to thank whom ever it was that mentioned Ruth Stout on this website a few years ago.  I have finally found a couple of her books and was not able to put them down!  All this talk about hard soil made me think of it.  I have implemented her way of thinking into my large scale gardening and I am so happy with the results.  Granted, I still have a few years to go until it is where I want it to be, but it will be well worth the wait! I also do this for my 6000 sq. ft. garden.  I have really noticed a difference out there as it was not in the best shape a few years ago.  Talk about hard soil! She says it only takes 4 years to get good, loose compost soil made and then it is nothing from then on! And each year after you first start, it improves each season. I just build layers on top of layers where ever I have space to grow things. And of course I throw all my house compost right on to the garden and let it work it's magic. You don't see it after a few days anyway, and this time a year, typically, the snow will cover it up! I just got done making 5 new herb and flower beds around the milk house and house, and each one has 6 layers on them so far.  No soil, just wet newpapers on the bottom, then layers of what ever you can get your hands on.  Like wood shavings, peat moss (lots of that is good), leaves, compost & a little bit of wood ash.  I add a layer of peat on top of each new layer I put down.  I can't wait to see how they look come spring time.  They seem like they are a mile high now, but I know they will settle down when they start doing their thing!  Thanks again to whom ever it was!  I wish she was still around, she seems like she was one cool chic!!  
>Herb Thyme
>Middlefield, Oh
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