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Weedless Gardening

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Garden like Mother Nature, with an organic system that’s good for plants and good for people.
Say good-bye to backaches and weed problems!  Lee Reich’s organic Weedless Gardening eschews the traditional yearly digging up and working over of the soil. It’s is an easy-to-follow, low-impact approach to planting and maintaining a flower garden, a vegetable patch, trees, and shrubs naturally.

"If you love to knock yourself out digging beds, buy a better shovel. If you're looking for a no-nonsense alternative, buy this book!" -Ketzel Levine, National Public Radio's Doyenne of Dirt) "Thoroughly practical, easy-to-follow guide to good gardening Lee Reich make it sound simple, and if you follow his methods and philosophy, it is." -Dora Galitzki, Gardening Columnist, The New York Times , and Author of The Gardener's Essential Companion "Finally, a book filled with science-based information that insures success and frees us from busywork in the garden." - Dr. H. March Cathey, President Emeritus, American Horticultural Society

176 pages, Paperback

First published January 8, 2000

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About the author

Lee Reich

16 books20 followers
Lee Reich, PhD is an avid farmdener (more than a gardener, less than a farmer) with graduate degrees in soil science and horticulture. After working in plant and soil research with the USDA and Cornell University, he shifted gears and turned to writing, lecturing, and consulting.

He writes regularly for a number of gardening magazines and his syndicated gardening column for Associated Press appears biweekly from coast to coast.

His farmden has been featured in such publications as the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living, has won awards from National Gardening and Organic Gardening magazines, and has been included in “Open Days” tours of the Garden Conservancy.

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5 stars
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81 (22%)
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16 (4%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 55 reviews
Profile Image for Janelle.
3 reviews
July 3, 2014
Great book, until Lee told me to use Round-Up. That chapter was like finding my new friend was a KKK leader.
211 reviews
March 13, 2018
Probably better used as a reference book.

A few of the main takeaways are:
-You should almost never till or disturb the soil. If you are going to till the ground, it should be because you're starting your new garden and need to completely destroy what's growing there currently.
-You shouldn't be tilling, because you should be constantly (realistically seasonally and as needed in the summer) adding rich compost to the surface. Over time this will create a much healthier layer of dirt on the surface, which is better than constantly trying to pull nutrients from deeper levels of soil.
-You also shouldn't be stepping on the ground in your garden. Similar to the reason you shouldn't till your garden which is related to how you're creating less desirable conditions below ground (related to water and nutrient absorption and affecting how roots are able to grow). So, you should instead plan your garden ahead of time and make intentional pathways that aren't growing anything.
-Try to maximize your available space. This was primarily related to plants having different growing seasons and durations, and taking advantage of these differences to maximize the yield from your garden.

So, if you need a reference on setting up your garden, check this out.
Profile Image for Dan Moore.
10 reviews2 followers
April 28, 2008
I came across Lee Reich's book a few years ago in our local library. 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 cataloge. 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. I used to have to figure out where to get rid of the grass clippings all year, and the mulch/chips from tree removal and land clearing. Now, my 1000 square foot garden consumes as much material as I can throw at it. My grass, my neigbors grass, my mothers grass, leaves, kitchen scraps, etc, most of which people are glad to have a place to dump, all go into my garden.

I have not followed all the recommendations of Mr. Reich. I'm currently experimenting with composting in my overly large walkways (48 inch) rather than composting in a seperate compost bin. It cuts my yield but pleases the wife since there is no large ugly bin in the yard, and no turning of the compost. (My chickens turn it for me, while adding their own brand of nitrogen.)

As with most garden books, the first half is dedicated to the topic at hand, the second half is a glossary of gardening topics, plants, tools, techniques which are common to most any gardening book. This is often viewed as a "filler" in many books, a way to justify the price for the now larger book. This book has many such items in it's second half but all that I have read are specific to the no till, weedless method and are not simply added ad hoc from another source for filler.
Profile Image for Erin Caldwell.
284 reviews2 followers
November 28, 2011
Although the concept is interesting, I was pretty disappointed that Reich didn't go into very much detail in this book. My husband asked me several questions while I was reading it that didn't get answered: How do you actually plant seeds, especially seeds like radishes and lettuce that are microscopic, using this technique? How often do you have to reapply newspapers? In addition, I felt that Reich kept mentioning that you might have to do some "maintenance weeding" at several different points during the text.

It was an interesting book and I will definitely try some of his techniques, but I don't think it was thorough enough for me to truly abandon what I'm doing and try going weedless. I also was a little annoyed that he delved into things like companion gardening, growing the best fruits and vegetables, and planting a wildflower meadow. Those concepts should not be sidenotes in a weedless gardening book - I have already read full texts about many of those ideas and want more information on those I haven't, not a chapter in another book. The subject I did want him to expand on - weedless gardening - was somewhat vague.
Profile Image for Ellen Bell.
61 reviews5 followers
February 27, 2013
I found this book to be thoroughly aggravating for some reason. Maybe because I'm just one of those gardening fools that likes to till my soil? Not sure... If nothing else, I'd say that it was an awfully long book to make a pretty simple point. The author could have summed it up more succinctly like this: Don't till your soil, don't step on your soil, apply mulch. 'Nuf said.
287 reviews4 followers
December 23, 2019
This is a decent primer if you're not up-to-date on contemporary organic gardening methods. It covers quite a bit of ground, from the weedless stuff (as titled) to gardening know-how like season-extension (well beyond the topic of the title).

However, like many primer gardening books, it comes across as heavy in opinion and light on science. Reich appears to be arguing with the reader at times, trying to convince them to give up certain practices and adopt his preferences, but doesn't always provide a convincing reason why.

For example, he argues that you should throw your diseased plants and weed seeds on your compost pile because the heat will kill it all. However, elsewhere he admits that many smaller home compost piles don't get that hot and he doesn't think this should discourage you from composting because time is more important than heat in making compost. But he doesn't promise that time will kill your weed seeds or bacterial diseases (spoiler: it won't). So I'm left with the feeling that I just sat through a lecture by a grumpy old codger who does things how he does things dammit and don't argue. Also, soybean meal is the best fertilizer, okay?

One place where he does a decent job of presenting an argument is the discussion of drip-irrigation vs soaker hoses. He does water-flow testing on a few feet of soaker hose and found that it did not do a consistent job, and therefore does not recommend it. Not exactly high science, but at least a cogent argument.

The book's strong suite are its tables. Reich provides some good information on fertilizers and seed-starting dates, among other things, which are very helpful. I wasn't expecting this sort of info and it was a nice bonus. Although, given how quickly he covers the ground promised in the title, I guess it was necessary. I do think he could have done a more thorough job on the weedless section, and made it feel more textbook-y and less grumpy-lecture-y. That all said, I think the sheer quantity of info presented in this small volume makes up for the shortcoming in how it's presented.
Profile Image for Maria Jansson.
70 reviews12 followers
September 23, 2016
Good thoughts. Nothing revolutionary, but a receipt that I am on the right path with my garden.
Profile Image for Dani.
197 reviews4 followers
August 18, 2020
This book was generally informative in its own right, and has a great premise: work smarter, not harder, by disturbing your soil as little as possible, and you'll be rewarded with far fewer weeds and fewer aching muscles!

However, I really didn't like the writing style or layout of this book.  At a glance, I found the book's contents eye-catching and appealing, but in practice it was a mess to read.  There was too much jumping around and it wasn't streamlined enough.  There were many little asides and separate boxes of information interrupting the flow of the main text.  Most all of it was quality information, but if it had been better organized it could have flown with the body of the text itself instead of existing in separate little boxes everywhere that seem to interrupt each other.  I'm sure that part of the difficulty is that it is a physically small book: textbooks have larger pages and so can put sidenotes to the literal side, and they fit a table on one page instead of on one-and-half pages in the middle of a section.  If that is the case, though, the layout designer should have considered how to better use the space of this book!

Besides the layout, I didn't like the writing style.  It feels heavy on opinion and anecdote.  Based on the author's credentials, he's surely done his research and knows his stuff, but he doesn't convey that through his writing.  One issue could be that he doesn't cite his sources or even specific studies, though the back of the book contains chapter-specific sources for further reading.  I'm sure some might say citing sources in the text reads too much like a dissertation or research paper, but even without in-text citations writing can still be authoritative and convincing.  (And footnotes are an option, too!)  Regardless, I wasn't convinced reading this book, and I wasn't as enlightened as I hoped to be, either.  I mostly just felt rambled to.  

Sometimes the author seems like he's arguing against the reader about... something?  The way he assumes you must already be gardening?  But he never quite lays out his assumptions, or even "common myths", in order to bolster his argument.  If it's not an argument for something in particular, it could just be an informative book--after all, it does contain a lot of gardening basics, such as how to weed while disturbing the soil as little as possible, how to compost, and how to organize the vegetables within your vegetable garden.  But, if it *is* just an informational book, why does the author so often sound like he's trying to tell me I'm wrong?  And why can't he just lay out a straightforward, convincing point?  Again, it feels anecdotal and rambling, like being trained in by a relative who is experienced in the garden but not in teaching.  There are advantages to this, and it feels homey, but personally I found it not as helpful as it could be.  I want a thoughtful teacher who knows how to guide and clearly display information--I can get ramblings and smatterings of loose info anywhere.

Overall, this book just wasn't for me.  It wasn't what I'd hoped for, and I was disappointed by what it ended up being... as well as confused as to what exactly it was trying to say.  Again, there's lots of information in this little book, but any old hand in the garden has plenty of personal stories to share and opinions on how best to do things.  What I'm looking for is a thoughtful, well-laid out guide (big or small, specific or general) that oozes scientific proof and doesn't make me worry I'm following some redecorated version of an old-wives tale.  Unfortunately, this book didn't do it for me.
Profile Image for Maureen.
166 reviews3 followers
February 24, 2021
Lee Reich, Ph.D is a soil researcher, avid gardener, and has worked for the USDA and Cornell University.

Lee wrote an article in the Columbus Dispatch a few months ago about raising lettuce during the wintertime in Buffalo, NY. I was intrigued by the article, because I love growing my own lettuce during the summer. I can't imagine fresh lettuce from the garden in the winter.

In this book, Lee provides an alternative to using the rototiller in the garden each spring to break up the soil. He also has some very good suggestions for planting the seeds or plants to yield larger crops. I'm looking forward to trying his method this summer!
Profile Image for Donna.
722 reviews6 followers
March 6, 2022
I very much enjoy Lee Reich's blog articles, so I thought I would get this book summing up how to garden without disturbing the soil, at least to a minimal degree. I'd been learning about the importance of soil structure and microbes that would benefit from not being turned over frequently. I found the beginning of the book more informative and there are a few chapters I will probably refer back to, especially regarding cover crops. The hand illustrations are simple, but enjoyable, scattered throughout. I found the content to be lighter than I desired, especially in the second half of the book. So overall, I got something out of reading it, but not as much as I had hoped.
Profile Image for Sue.
722 reviews7 followers
March 21, 2018
A winner. I have implemented several of Lee's (and other author's - Ruth Stout for one) ideas. Mulching and feeding your gardens (vegetable, perennial beds, etc) from the top down to improve your soil works. I started with what I considered concrete with some wild grass on top. After about a years time, I am already able to dig into the earth with a shovel about 6-8". Many followers of this method report the same and it only gets better with time. I'm selling my rototiller.
April 28, 2019
This was a surprisingly helpful little book that I reference often. Much of the book is about building quality soil, and all that goes along with that. I have found the section on cover crops to be particularly helpful. He also touches on irrigation systems, how to properly transplant perennial plants and vertical gardening.
It was not expensive book but it is pretty comprehensive. I like that it’s smaller, so it’s easy to bring along with me.
May 8, 2020
Pretty useful little book, definitely a different one than I had seen before on gardening practices. This one's mostly about sticking as close to what nature does after initially planning your garden. Sure, clean up what you've got, but don't mess with the soil too much. The topsoil all over the world has replaced itself year after year... unless we interfere too much. So, why not try it in your garden?

I like the ideas presented, so I'm gonna give them a whirl.
Profile Image for Alexander Pyles.
Author 12 books37 followers
March 20, 2022
This was a slow, but excellent read. As informative and dry as it gets, you can literally go nowhere else to find so much information about weedless gardening along with a plethora of other helpful gardening tips, such as constructing a trellis or making sure your beds have adequate drainage.

Plus, Reich offers plenty of sources to not only source his seeds, materials, and tools but offers a full appendix of all the sources he pulls from for this all-inclusive guide.
220 reviews
May 5, 2017
I think this is a handy guide for gardening, it is easy to read with clear and consistent instruction on the methods used. I dislike the drawings to illustrate a "fact" presented, when a photo would demonstrate the real information. I will definitely consider the method and apply some of this style in my own yard.
Profile Image for Eric.
267 reviews14 followers
August 14, 2018
Weedless Gardening is an excellent organic gardening resource, full of useful advice, informative tables, and additional resources. While I continue to not see a viable path between the current state of my garden and a weedless one that requires a few minutes of weeding a week, I can also dream, and at least I'll have good tips along the way!
Profile Image for Jay Best.
180 reviews3 followers
November 26, 2021
Good book, thorough, covers a number of different methods mainly a back to Eden / no dig methods to ensure no weeds and a healthy garden.

Some parts I'm already happy with the methods I'm using (Eg my worm compost), so I skim read those parts.

* Read via Libby app, sped read 400 page in 21 mins (v. lightly scanned about a third).
Profile Image for Leslie.
1,092 reviews4 followers
April 16, 2022
Revisiting this subject has made me more eager to tackle my weedy flower beds. Blaming Jethro Tull has a pop culture attention-getter. Not exposing weed seeds to the vital sunlight they require is smart, using mulch to keep them down is smart; however there will still be weeds, just a lot less of them. This is an excellent book for gardeners both novice and professional.
Profile Image for Kali.
218 reviews
July 17, 2019
A lot of these concepts were not new to me, and there are some things in here I am just never going to do (like spray Roundup). But overall it was easy to read and there were some tips I might come back to, like establishing a wildflower meadow.
May 31, 2017
a well done book with some great ideas for easier gardening. I will implement some of these ideas this year and see how it goes.
Profile Image for Molly Moody.
226 reviews2 followers
June 5, 2020
Excellent & a huge help for making gardening a little easier & a little more fun!
Profile Image for Nadja.
9 reviews5 followers
July 2, 2021
Super helpful tips for maintaining garden without constantly weeding. Put down newspaper, wet it, apply mulch. Focus on a top down approach.
38 reviews
July 27, 2015
This was a very interesting gardening book. It presents an alternative to what most gardeners do. Especially what I was taught by my grandfather. However, the evidence for these methods is anecdotal. There are no rigorous studies to actually see if this method really results in less weeds than other methods. I tried this method in my own garden this year. Even though I didn't count the number of weeds, it didn't seem that there were less this year as the prior years. The experiment is really about how many weed seeds are already in the garden soil and how many blow in from somewhere else. Weedless gardening is much easier than what people usually do. Even if there is no difference in the number of weeds. As long as the soil fertility is the same as the other methods, then this method is better.
1 review
January 5, 2012
An interesting and fast read. Mr. Reich's approach seems logical from a scientific viewpoint. I will apply his gardening methods this spring because I've been loosening soil in plant beds for years followed by an application of shredded bark - the result of which has been anything but weedless. Disturbing the soil surface as little as is practical, addition of only 1" of organic mulch per year, and drip irrigation delivered only to plants that are welcome in the garden are the three factors I'll focus on. If Mr. Reich's approach works, I would look forward with joy to virtual elimination of the use of herbicides in my gardens since herbicides are expensive, time consuming to mix and apply, and without doubt less than beneficial to all living things.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 55 reviews

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