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Weedless Gardening Paperback – January 8, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"There's no such thing," my ace-gardener mom said when I told her about Weedless Gardening. I think author Lee Reich would agree that the title is a bit misleading (there will always be some weeds). Also a bit misleading are the blurbs from the publisher, which stop short of calling the book "ground-breaking" only because Reich's system is based on the total eschewal of tilling or otherwise turning over the soil. The building blocks of his philosophy have been in use for decades in one way or another: from low-till commercial farming techniques (which sometimes also involve firebombing the soil with herbicide) to simple green composting with knocked-down cover crops. But in Weedless Gardening Reich takes it all the way, no tilling, no herbicide unless absolutely necessary--all while providing everything the home gardener needs to know about cover crops, composting, and drip irrigation. In every section Reich lists mail-order and Internet sources for supplies.

The benefits of cover crops, composting, and planting in beds rather than rows are widely known, and they're dealt with in depth here. More controversial is Reich's injunction to rigorously preserve the natural layering of the soil--even when pulling up weeds, dead annuals, or old corn stalks. He makes a good case: tilling under weedy areas kills existing weeds in the short term, but turning over the dirt exposes more weed seeds to sunlight and air, and more of them will germinate; better to kill them first by mowing and self-composting or smothering them with mulch. In addition, Reich explains, water in broken-up, uniform soil tends to flow straight down; water in undisturbed soil travels more slowly, in different directions--down and sideways--thus more efficiently reaching roots. Installing a drip irrigation system further decreases water use (the book includes detailed instructions and formulas for calculating water-flow and timing) and, like many of Reich's recommendations, apparently works best when practiced in concert with his no-till, "top-down" method.

What isn't clear is how effective his system can be in an area that has been worked over by indifferent landscapers or that has already been tilled over and over for years. How long will it take for that plot's soil to resettle into something resembling its pretilled state? If my mom starts "weedless gardening" now, will she be wading through a forest of weeds or, worse, buying tasteless corn at the supermarket come August? --Liana Fredley

From Publishers Weekly

Weeds are every gardener's nemesis, so any book promising to eliminate them is certain to excite interest. Fortunately, Reich's approach is a credible one. A former agricultural researcher for Cornell University and the USDA, Reich (Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention: A Gardener's Guide) challenges conventional gardening or gardening from the bottom up, in which the soil is turned over every spring or fall. This method exposes to light and air all the weed seeds lying dormant in the soil and encourages weed growth. Reich maintains that instead, since soil health determines plant health, gardeners should essentially create new soil by gardening as nature does from the top down. This means placing layers of newspaper over the soil to smother weed growth, covering the area year after year with mulch (which can include compost, leaves, bark chips or peat moss), then planting in that rich medium. He outlines his method in detail, offering modifications for different soil types and adding irrigation, planting, harvesting and tidying tips. Numerous charts and illustrations accompany Reich's chatty, highly literate text. He also discusses cover crops, vegetables, various types of flower garden designs, groundcovers, trees (including fruit trees), shrubs and vines, all of which can flourish under the weedless gardening technique. Reich's is a revolutionary approach to gardening, engagingly and lucidly explained. (Mar.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company (January 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761116966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761116967
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lee Reich, PhD started out pursuing an academic career, a trajectory that came to an abrupt halt during his second year in graduate school while studying quantum chemistry. He dropped out, moved to Vermont to ponder his next move, and, after a year, immersed himself in the study and practice of agriculture: reading popular and academic works, returning to academia by entering graduate school in agriculture, and gardening like a madman.

Three graduate degrees, work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University, and much dirt under his fingernails later, he went off on his own as a freelance horticultural writer, consultant, and lecturer.

Out in the backyard, the garden developed and garnered awards ("Prettiest Vegetable Garden: from Organic Gardening magazine, "Best Vegetable Garden" from National Gardening magazine), and was featured in the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living. The garden also grew: Lee now considers himself a farmdener (more than a gardener, less than a farmer), tending his farmden in a small river valley in New York's beautiful Hudson River Valley. His farmden provides inspiration for his writing, a testing and observation ground for new plants, especially fruits, and, of course, plenty of delicious, healthful fruits and vegetables.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Reich's "bare bones of Weedless Gardening" are:

1. minimize soil disruption

2. protect soil surface

3. avoid soil compaction

4. use drip irrigation

Sounds simple? It is! I implemented steps 1-3 (drip is not allowed in my community garden) in half of my garden, and months later, the results speak for themselves. The half in which I tried these techniques has tidy beds with the intended plants growing in them. The other half is a field of weeds.

This book explains mulch, compost, cover crops, drip irrigation, layouts, the application of Weedless Gardening to specific vegetables (e.g., you don't have to dig a trench to grow asparagus), flower gardens, and planting trees and shrubs, all in clear, concise language and a very manageable size. As a relative beginner, I found it all easy to understand. As a student, I was pleased that I didn't have to buy expensive materials (did you know many landfills offer free compost?). This book, and perhaps a book tailored to your region, will provide all the basic gardening advice you need.

All these pros make up for the fact that the other gardeners around think I'm crazy since they saw me newspaper-ing my garden.
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Better yet, go ahead and sell the tiller -- you probably don't need it. Introduced to the idea of mulch-bed gardening by Gene Logsdon, I implemented the method in my garden this year. It is now September, and I probably haven't spent half an hour pulling weeds all summer. And it isn't because I have let things go; there just hasn't been that many weeds.

About the only problem I have had is grass encroaching from the sides. With so few weeds, I was beginning to wonder if there was a problem. My vegetable plants are doing just fine, though, and have generally been much more productive than they were last year.

Now that I have read Reich's book, I have a clearer idea of what's going on and understand how I might do things even better next time around. Weedless Gardening is similar to the method Logsdon describes in The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening -- though it might be more accurately described as compost-bed gardening -- but Reich goes into more detail on the particulars, at least as far as keeping the weeds at bay goes. (Now don't get me wrong: I have enjoyed reading and profited from Logsdon's writing as well.)

This is an easy read with a lot of good information packed into a relatively short book. Not having to deal with so many weeds (or wondering when I would find the time to deal with them!) makes gardening so much more enjoyable. I only wish I had discovered this book a few years ago.

As an aside, anyone with poultry might also find Andy Lee's book Chicken Tractor helpful. It too describes a variation of the no-till theme.

p.s. To address Joseph's comment (below) in part, I can get unprinted newsprint paper from my local newspaper. They usually discard the very last part of each roll; just ask if they have any "end rolls" available.
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I came across Lee Reich's book a few years ago in our local library (I've since purchased it to keep on hand). Since I was knee deep in weeds at the time the title intrigued me. At the time it was mid summer and my garden, as usual, was an example of spring time work gone awry.

Each year, I dilligently tilled and rowed my garden as my father and his father had done, arranged the sprinklers, planted the best plants, staked the beans, caged the tomatoes and planned how this year I was going to have a TV worthy garden. Then May turned to June, to July and 98 degrees and 98% humidity stopped my outdoor adventures. I only went to the garden to harvest the results, which were rapidly disappearing under a malaise of weeds, bugs, and diseases. So once again by summer time the garden had become an unsightly eye sore rather than the picture of pride I had foolishly envisioned while reading over the seed catalogue. If only I didn't have a real job, and kids, and a to do list a mile long, I could spend my days toiling away in the garden to get one of those "fake" TV gardens that obviously cannot be produced by mere mortals.

After skimming through the book I began to get excited. I really didn't expect much from the book but the concepts made a certain sense and if they worked, maybe I could actually improve my garden.

Three years into this experiment, I can say that I look forward to gardening more now than ever. What used to be a chore is now a pleasant break from my routine and a source of pride to visitors. While no garden is truly weedless, it is much easier to stay ahead of the weeds using Lee's approach. It also fits much better into the rest of what I do.
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In Weedless Gardening, horticultural expert Lee Reich clearly and concisely offers a system of gardening patterned after Mother Nature, and is good for both plants and people. Rather that the traditional approach to annually digging up and working over the soil, Weedless Gardening provides an easy-to-follow, low-impact, effective, and environment friendly approach to planting and maintaining a flower garden, a vegetable garden, trees, and shrubs. Gardeners seeking to protect the soil, eliminate heavy work, and reduce water needs should first begin planning their gardening activities with a thorough reading of Lee Reich's Weedless Gardening!
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