Garden Hero: Ruth Stout

The inspiring, entertaining, and straightforward Ruth Stout (1884-1980) was an American gardener and writer who perfected what she called the “No Work” vegetable garden method: the principle of using a year round mulch of hay. She came to gardening late in life and wrote several gardening books on making gardening easy. Ruth was one of the first to propose the no-dig, no-plow vegetable garden, a practice that preserves the soil structure and valuable microorganisms. The video above shows Ruth planting potatoes by casually tossing sprouted spuds on the ground, then covering with hay.

A thick layer of straw, newspaper, or any other organic mulch is essential in the hot, dry days of mid summer especially now, in the middle of a heat wave and drought. As Ruth says, “mulch keeps the soil soft and moist”, the perfect growing medium for most plants. When watering, if soil is very dry, pull newspaper away from base of plants to make sure water sinks in, then re-cover to hold the moisture in.

I can’t argue with Ruth’s gardening philosophy, “I don’t do anything I don’t want to do, and I don’t have to.” I also like her professed habit of having her breakfast Roman-style, on the couch.

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