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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wages

Ruth Stout: The Innovator of Deep Mulch Gardening

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

“Ruth Stout, American author, gardener, independent thinker. Born June 14, 1884, died August 22, 1980, Ruth was best known for her “No-Work” gardening books and techniques.

As her popularity (and perhaps notoriety as a maverick) increased, Ruth became a go to source for many organic and no-till practitioners. Her books are considered standards. These include Gardening without Work: For the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent and How to Have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back: A New Method of Mulch Gardening.”

During her first year of gardening and for many after, Ruth employed conventional techniques and practices in her garden with mixed results. She had to wait for someone else to come and plow the fields before she could start. This gentleman was frequently late or delays would occur due to mechanical failures. Wasted time lessened the already short growing season and tried her patience. Furthermore, the manual labor involved in planting a traditional garden became more than she could handle by herself. In the Spring of 1944, Stout decided that she wasn’t going to wait for the plowman, nor was she going to plow on her own. Instead she planted the seeds and covered them, waiting to see what would happen, and discovered surprising success.

As the years progressed, Stout refined her techniques, eventually adopting a year-round mulch which virtually eliminated the labor associated with traditional gardening. Her minimalist approach spawned a long-running series of articles in Organic Gardening and Farming magazine as well as several books.

[Be sure to watch the video on page 3!]

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