The vegetable lazy

Le Potager du Paresseux: producing “more than organic” vegetables almost without work!

Le Potager du Laesseux, producing "more than organic" vegetables, almost without work, with yields equivalent to those of a classic garden with chemical treatments: a dream? Not with the "Potager du Laesseux"!

DR photos: Didier Helmstetter. Introductory photo “The Sloth of the Vegetable Garden in action, its motto: less active ingredients; more gray matter! "

In what he calls his “Potager du Laesseux”, in Alsace, Didier Helmstetter is himself surprised by the results he obtains.

The idea of ​​a “workless vegetable garden” came to him after he found himself physically very weak, following a heart attack which could have killed him. Agronomist, he was well acquainted with no-till techniques, organic farming, biodynamics, permaculture ... But for his vegetable garden, the trigger, very late he admits, was the meeting with Manfred Wenz, a self-taught German farmer who has cultivated its 50 ha of mixed crops for about thirty years without any tillage.

Neither one nor two, after this meeting, his “classic” vegetable garden, which was left fallow for lack of sufficient strength to work it correctly and at the right time, was “converted” to “zero tillage”!

The sloth's vegetable garden is a very simple way to garden

The procedure is, in principle, very simple: it is a question of maintaining a permanent cover of organic matter, not already decomposed, over the entire surface of the soil all year round, and that to a sufficient thickness.

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And above all never to stir the earth - not even with a grelinette. No hillocks either, of course. "Idiocy," he said dryly. “Biologically, it makes no sense: where did you see that nature buries plant debris? ". And all the same, it does a lot of work (even if it doesn't have to be repeated every year): "Just for that, it's excluded in the Potager du Laesseux!" "...

And of course, after covering the ground, it is still necessary to sow or plant. “And it will even be necessary to harvest! »Jokes Didier… And to be honest, there is also a little maintenance: some perennials will“ break through ”through the cover and they will have to be pulled out, as it will be necessary to protect the young seedlings against birds fond of earthworms or trap voles if you are in an infested area ...

Keep the soil of the sloth's vegetable garden covered with two "materials"

On the one hand, on about 80% of the surface, Didier uses hay. This one is much richer, more nutritious than the straw, generally used: it thus feeds better the living organisms of the ground, which “will work” more and better for the laidback gardener. And as it decomposes, it brings more nutrients to the soil, where they will be available to crops. No “depressive effect” to fear either, quite the contrary.

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Hay rolls, waiting to be unrolled on the planks ...

On the other hand, for certain crops, such as strawberries or raspberries, BRF (Bois Raméal Fragmenté) is preferred. Its use is aimed at specifically stimulating the activity of fungi, which, in association with the roots of most plants, form what are called "mycorrhizae". This symbiotic association (in simple language, one would say “a win / win cooperation”) makes it possible to multiply by 100 the surface of action of the root hairs in the soil.

These mycorrhizal fungi also have the remarkable ability to extract less soluble mineral elements. Or even “stashed” substances that are difficult to access by plants. Or water too strongly retained by soil particles when we are close to wilting ...

Finally, the BFI consisting of lignin decomposition is the starting point for the synthesis of stable humus. This stable humus plays a fundamental role in the ground, the stability of it (its resistance to degradation), ability to retain water and most minerals ...

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Ramial Chipped Wood
Covered ground BRF (fragmented Wood Raméal) for the planting of strawberries


14 comments on “Le Potager du Paresseux: producing“ more than organic ”vegetables almost without work!”

  1. It leaves you dreaming, but I only have small cultivable and scattered areas.
    So, how to do? I already had to throw away my 2 zucchini plants and I hope to save my 4 tomato plants. Because in Touraine it's been 2 years since we haven't been spoiled by the weather! Last year I still had a small greenhouse like a plastic cabinet but there after 3 years the plastic part which protected well from the rain was out of order. And I also have a small square vegetable garden of 1M20x1M20 where I put wild arugula and seedlings of salads to cut.

    1. Hello,
      Surfaces don't play a big role, I think. It seems to me possible to "treat" small squares as I do on larger surfaces. What you need: permanently cover and keep covered; do not stir the earth so as not to destroy the work of living organisms ...
      Perhaps it takes a little time for all of life to set in: worms do not appear by spontaneous generation! They are attracted and multiply if they have good food!
      This year, due to the very long period of humidity and cold, the soil cycles did not work. I too had sick plants, others that burst. Those who survived and didn't move for 2 months, literally “explode” now that it's hot and drier ...
      If I had started this year, maybe it would not have gone further: I would have said to myself “this does not work! ".

  2. Of course that tillage is heresy!
    The best choice is the principle of the forest: no one touches the ground and the trees grow alone.
    At home, I have meadow, if I did not cut anything, I would live in the middle of a wood.
    Thank you and long life!

  3. I live in Tamatave / Madagascar; sandy soil; there is no hay, so i plan to use rice straw.
    do you think i will have good results?

    1. Madagascar has very different climatic zones. But in any case, we don't have the conditions that are the basis of my way of doing things: no anecic worms, not the same soil microbiology, very little organic matter in the soil and very little organic matter available. , termites, etc ...
      So we can not transfer like that! And it is risky to assert something.
      Soil cover, in any case, with any organic matter will be a plus, in terms of drought and raindrop shock / erosion. It's already huge.
      But we have to manage the competition for water.
      A more promising avenue would, in my opinion, be agroforestry, that is to say the association of trees or shrubs (which also has a utility: fruits, pharmacopoeia, fodder, etc.). You have to find the right woody species and the right density at each location (precipitation, slopes).
      If there is slope and erosion, you have to start by creating contour bunds (there, pragmatism requires "working" the land to "format" it) ...

    2. Hello Philippe,
      A somewhat belated comment: I attended a conference by Claude and Lidya Bourguignon; former researchers at INRA, they travel the world to transmit to indigenous populations how
      regain independence in production légumes.Il particular showed a slide of Madagascar (perhaps around Tana) Good looking and Success in 2017

  4. yes no worries, it is not very varied and rich in silica, if we find adding neem leaves which are falling at the moment (winter) mo I will do with sisal waste because I am in the extreme south of Mada (Amboasary) To be continued

    1. Watch out for the insecticidal / insect repellent properties of neem leaves. You have to watch how it reacts. But it is sure that it is an available organic matter, so you have to try and see if it is better (the insecticidal effect is limited in time) with than without!

  5. Bonsoir

    I just found out about your method and am just blown away! Thank you for sharing with us.
    I just saw your answer concerning Madagascar, do you think it is the same case in Laos? Or could I experiment with your method?
    I am a great novice but during my stay there, it seemed to me that the land was very rich.
    Thanks for your feedback

  6. Hello! Thanks for sharing this method! I have a quick question: for seedlings in the ground, how do you proceed? I imagine that it is difficult for most germinating plants to cross the barrier of hay or brf… well I think! Do you make holes or furrows in the hay when you sow? Thank you in advance and good luck !!

  7. I am fascinated by phenoculture. Completely new to gardening, I would like to get started. But how do you get hay? I dare not disturb the local farmers with my backward city garden.
    I did something with homemade BRF that I mixed with clippings of my lawn that I let grow as much as possible to have long stems (dried) and compost. I did not stir the ground.
    Thank you very much for these exciting videos.
    If your neighbor farmer is ready to deliver in Loire-Atlantique put us in touch 😉

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