How to Use the Core Gardening Method to Grow with Minimal Water

Are you tired of your garden needing constant watering? Do you live in an area with an arid climate which is hard on your plants? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you are going to be interested in a new gardening method.

This method is known as core gardening. It’s a straightforward process which will handle most of your watering needs for the growing season.

It was originally used by people of the Middle East who have been using this method for years. They were able to grow food in ditches where there is typically no rain.

How to Create a Core Garden

Here is the information you need to be able to succeed in this style of gardening as well:

You’ll need:

  • Bales of straw, hay, leaves, or dry grass clipping
  • Raised garden bed
  • Cardboard
  • Soil or manure

I’m going to assume you’re a beginner gardener who is starting from the ground up with this method. If you don’t fit into this category, jump in where you see fit.  These are the steps for core gardening:

1. Construct Raised Beds

To practice core gardening, you need to use raised garden beds. It makes it easier for the core to do its job when working in smaller areas.

Building raised beds is a simple process where you create a rectangle, of any desired size, from wood or other materials you have on hand.

When you have your raised beds constructed, you can move to the next step of the process.

2. Cover the Ground

In any gardening situation, you don’t want the grass to make its way into your soil. You can either dig the grass up or cover it up.

I mentioned above you’d need cardboard. This is where it comes into play. You’ll cover the grass with cardboard to smother it.

Also, the cardboard will break down over time and add to the components of your soil. If you don’t have cardboard, you can cover the grass with plastic for a week or more.

On sunny days, the heat will kill the grass. Be sure to remove the plastic before continuing these steps, if this is the method you choose.

Finally, you could use landscaping fabric to keep the grass out of your raised beds as well. You won’t have to remove it before planting.

However, realize the landscaping fabric won’t add any nutrients to your soil as time passes.

In short, use whatever materials you have on hand or work best for your budget. The goal is to keep grass from taking over your garden in the future.

When you feel confident you’ve blocked the grass, you’re ready to move on.

3. Begin Adding Dirt

You’ll need to add a few inches of dirt to your garden bed to get the process started. If your raised beds aren’t deep, you may need to skip this step.

However, if you have deep garden beds, you might want to fill them up about ¼ of the way before adding your core.

This is up to you and based on your garden design. In deep garden beds, you don’t want the core to be too far down, or it may not have the desired effect on plants with shallow roots.

4. Add the Core

You’re now ready to add the core to your garden. You’re going to begin by digging a trench horizontally down the middle of your raised bed.

Realize, the core will spread moisture in your raised bed going two feet in both directions from it. If your garden bed is larger, you may need to add a second core. A second core will make sure the garden remains adequately watered.

The trench needs to be eight to ten inches deep running down the center of the raised bed. If you don’t dig the trench deep enough, the core will be too high in the bed.

This causes issues when you plant because the roots of the plants will become tangled in the core.

When you’ve dug your trench, you need to add the organic materials you’ll be using as your core. This could be dried grass clippings, dried leaves, or straw/hay which is breaking down.

Most recommend using straw because hay usually has grass seeds in it. Grass seeds could cause grass to begin sprouting in your raised bed, which you don’t want.

Add four to five inches of the organic material to the trench. If you don’t add enough, your core will break down too quickly. Therefore, it won’t do its job for the entire growing season.

However, if you add too much material to your trench, the core may not break down before the next growing season which could cause a mess in your soil when you have to add another core.

5. Cover with Soil

When your core has been placed in the trench in the center of your raised garden bed, you’ll need to cover it with quality soil. You could use store-bought soil, compost, or manure.

Whatever you’d like for your plants to grow in, you use this to cover the core. When the core is covered completely, you’re ready to move on.

If you are interested in making your own food then click here to find out more about this awesome survival guide on food independence. 

6. Plant

The great thing about core gardening is there is no waiting period. In many gardening methods, you have to wait for items to break down before you can use the garden space.

With core gardening, you plant right over the core. You can begin getting your plants to grow in the midst of the next step.

When you’ve finished covering the core, plant what you wish in the space, and move on to the next step.

7. Charge Your Core

An essential step in using the ‘core method’ is to make sure your core is charged. The idea behind the core method is for the straw to work like a sponge. It holds water for your garden to keep you from having to apply as much.

You first have to saturate the core to get the process started. From there, you can water less because you have a giant sponge in the middle of your garden which your plants can draw water from.

In the beginning, you’ll need to water your core deeply. You can do this after you’ve planted in your raised bed.

However, it’s important to note you don’t water your raised beds to boost your newly planted crops.

Instead, you water to ensure you are thoroughly soaking your core. If the core doesn’t become fully saturated, the method won’t work.

Benefits of Core Gardening

There are many different gardening methods. The reason being is they each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Also, people have different preferences and prefer certain methods and techniques over others.

To give you the best opportunity to decide if this method is for you or not, I wanted to share the benefits of core gardening:

1. Holds Moisture

By using the core gardening method, once charged, you should be able to go weeks at a time without adding water to your garden.

Which is great if you’re someone who likes to travel during the peak of growing season. You could leave your garden and come back to it still flourishing instead of being burnt to a crisp.

2. No Waiting Period

As mentioned above, there is no waiting period to plant when applying the core method. When you use other means, such as no-dig gardening, or bale gardening, you have to wait for the wood chips or straw to compost before you can plant, usually.

However, since the materials in the core have already begun to break down before you apply them, you’re in the clear to plant as soon as you’ve completed adding the core.

3. Cheap

Some gardening methods require an investment upfront. This method doesn’t, which makes it budget-friendly.

You can easily collect leaves or your grass clipping for no money. If you prefer to use straw, it’s inexpensive to purchase.

But if you begin collecting it at the right time of year, you may not have to pay for it at all. Around the fall of the year, people use straw to decorate.

When the season has passed, you see a great deal of straw being tossed. You could collect what’s being wasted and take it home to garden with for no money.

4. Simple

This method of gardening is straightforward. There isn’t much to it. You dig a hole, fill it with material to create a sponge and plant.

From there, you enjoy the benefits of easily watered plants. You do this once a year and avoid the hassle of watering every day during a drought. This is the definition of simplicity in gardening.

5. Creates Better Soil

Finally, using the core gardening method creates better soil. Not only does the core hold moisture for your plants, but it also loosens the soil up.

In the process, the soil begins to drain better. This is ideal for plants. They all like loose soil where they can easily stretch their roots.

Also, plants desire soil which will drain well to keep them from being overwatered at any given period.

Well, you now know how to create and adequately apply the core gardening method to your garden. This should make retaining water in your garden a little easier for you.

But we’d love to hear from you. Have you ever tried this gardening method? Do you have any tips or tricks for those new to this style of gardening? Any valuable lessons learned?

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us your thoughts in the space provided below.

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