Rule of life #1 - Don't be selfish!
Seriously? Your trying to get business by calling people selfish?
It comes naturally... I want apples, apples grow on trees, here is a apple tree... hopefully next year I'll have some apples. It seems logical. Yet, if we don't slow down and ask any questions about the needs, or history of apples (or whatever), we are setting ourselves (and the apple tree) up for disappointment. We live in a world where we expect things quickly, but sometimes the path to a more productive and resilient lifestyle includes taking time to slow down, think, and plan before acting (the "Design" part of our business ;o) ).
Cardboard as an organic weed barrier? Garden beds that follow the contour of the ground? Wood chip mulch? Wood buried under gardens? These aren't appropriate for every situation, but many times can be powerful solutions to common problems. We don't use these things because we are cheap, we use them because even though many of them are seen as waste, they are extremely valuable for creating healthy soil. Many people say they want to grow something, but there soil is terrible...Good News, healthy soil can be created, nature is actually very good at it (try not cleaning your gutter for a few years, trees will start growing)!
Challenge: Find your nearest patch of mature woods and dig down into the soil. Does your garden soil look that rich? Don't go in the woods often? Go to your nearest playground that has been around a few years and dig through the top layer of fresh mulch, does your garden soil look anything close? The problems with our soil have less to do with where we live, and more to do with how we treat it.
Nature will make rich fertile soil anywhere if we just leave it alone, we can mimic, and speed up these natural cycles to turn our degraded, compacted soil into rich living soil that plants will thrive in (even without spending any money).
Natural environments use all of the energy they receive to create lush soil and then to prevent it from washing away. Bare soil is very quickly covered by mulch in the fall and plants in the spring. These things keep the life giving soils in place. If we mimic these natural systems we can stop fighting nature. There are thousands of seeds in every square meter of soil, just incase it becomes disturbed, so that roots can hang onto the soil and prevent it from being lost to the ocean floor. When we till up the soil, we either create the perfect place for erosion, or for a lot of plants we don't want (weeds).
When we slow down a bit we can actually observe valuable functions of weeds. A dandelion that completes its life cycle decompacts the soil better than an aerification machine can, because it doesn't leave a empty hole, it leaves a deep composted root. If you look closely, where you have the most dandelions, you probably also have compacted soil. In very loose soils we normally find plants with hair net root structures that can hold the loose particles together to prevent erosion...."that's great, I still don't want weeds" ... Then we need to observe how we can make that come about...without bringing out the nukes...
The Chemical Cocktails
For the long term health of plants, a healthy soil ecosystem (think economy) is needed. The most recent research has shown an incredible balance of life in soil, including good and bad bacteria, as well as a wide variety of fungi that act like the highway of the forest, transferring minerals and nutrients.
We can aid these benifical soil life forms or destroy them. If we destroy them we start a very negative cycle. For every natural function we wipe out, we will be forced to try to do the work instead. Many times we just need to spend more time thinking, before we start doing.