Jim Rich if you take care of the soil, then the soil takes care of the plants.

My whole theory is that if you take care of the soil, then the soil takes care of the plants.

first spiral garden created by jim ©PaulMassey2011

Jim Rich is a landscape contractor and certified permaculturist by profession and big advocate of beauty in the garden.  His favorite design is the spiral, which he fills with food and flowers leaving large expanses of lawn to frame the planting and provide easy access for wheelbarrows and tools. The wide pathways offer a visual appeal no matter what is happening within the beds; they maintain the architecture of the garden.  Pictured is the first spiral garden with the gateway framed by the exotic blue jade vine.

Jim’s been gardening since he was 12 years old. Today he spends hours every day working in the Adidam Garden, located on the eastern side of Kauai Island, and building soil from little more than grass and cover crops. Food from the garden goes to the full-time servers as well as practitioners who make a contribution at the Adidam Sanctuary. Excess is given away. The garden today has expanded to include approximately 1/2 acre of garden beds in seven separate areas fenced-in to protect from pigs.

Jim Rich loves his garden©PaulMassey2011

He is an avid gardener and a champion of the no till method of gardening. Each year his carbon footprint for amendments and fertilizers gets smaller and smaller, well in fact, today Jim adds no outside inputs. He grows nearly everything he needs for his plants right on site. Jim’s favorite soil building crops are sudan grass, chicory, hairy vetch, crotalaria and, especially, non-dormant alfalfa. Hairy vetch he intersperses among certain vegetable crops. Pigeon peas are used as a specialty crop used to build more stable humus. Other staples in his garden plants are rapeseed or canola, and perpetual chard. All of these add nutrients to the soil and have the added benefit of providing food.

Canola (Brassica napus L.), for example, is a relative of the turnip that grows in very poor soils. It is nutritious and gets its spiky roots down into the soil to start breaking the way for other less hardy vegetables. Pidgeon peas (Cajanus cajan) are one of my favorite plants. They are so easy to grow–quickly reaching a height of about five feet often filled with pretty yellow or yellow and red flowers. These tough shrubs can be used as a hedge or a small windbreak. You can cut them back repeatedly and simply lay the branches on the ground as a green mulch to nourish other plants. If that isn’t enough the multipurpose little bushes give out buckets of pods filled with dried peas that cook up like a black eye-pea. They are high in protein and the plant is also a nitrogen fixer. If you have chickens or ducks the peas make a tasty treat that they will search for in the undergrowth for hours on end.

Jim is a keen observer and works on the relationships between the plants and the soil with never ending patience. Look how he does it!

Creating garden beds my No-Till way!

For those who have a bit of lawn – treasure it. Lawns are our hedge from the tilling machines that destroy our soils. When it is desired to convert some areas in lawn to grow vegetables it is of course necessary to first kill the grass, which commonly takes a long time (an entire season). But I have found a way that requires only a month or so to ready the soil for planting. It is similar to the Lasagna garden of permaculture lore, except simpler.

To get some roots of the grass to die immediately mow the grass as short as possible to remove most of the photosynthesizing leaves. Use the clippings obtained as mulch by spreading them on the new garden bed, which will further activate the decomposing organisms.

Visit Jim’s Web No-Till Gardening for complete details and pictures of his methods. NatureTalks is based on the island of Kauai. Specialties include presentations on the power of plants to transform communities and research in the urban forest.




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