Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that we are converting our small original garden plot to a no till garden this year. After gardening this spot for 14 years we felt that a no till method would help to maintain the soil and we are hoping to have less weeds and maintenance in this garden. That is important to us as we get older and have a harder time wrestling with heavy gardening equipment. To start with we both plowed and disked the soil and amended it with gypsum, cotton seed meal, compost and rabbit manure. Then it sat all winter.
This spring we did not plow or till but rather just ran the disk over it lightly. If this works this will be for the last time. Then we planted.
We put up a permanent fence for the peas to climb on and as the crops of peas, onions and potatoes started coming up we started laying clean straw that the chickens had worked for several weeks on the soil around our plants. Notice where there is straw there are very few if any weeds.
As we have planted our broccoli, cabbage and chinese cabbage seedlings we have continued to lay a thick straw mulch around everything. To the left of the cabbage you can see the row of seedlings of mustard, lettuce, spinach and beets that were planted with my napkin seed mats. The straw was not put over the small germinating seedlings from the mats but simply down the center of the walkways to discourage weed growth. As plants get larger the straw can always be pulled around the plants.
This is the rest of the garden just planted with 2 rows of green beans, 2 rows of corn, another row of mustard greens and two additional rows of English peas. With 4 days of rain the weeds are sprouting fast. Once the seedlings emerge and the soil dries I will weed it.
Probably with my hand cultivator and trusty hoe and then lay a thick layer of straw between the rows. I like that I can put things closer together with the mulch. In our traditional garden there had to be enough space between every row for the tiller to pass. Now the walkways need only be wide enough to allow a human to pass and maybe the small push cultivator. So I can now plant more in this garden. The straw will be left on year round and the garden put to bed this fall with a new thick layer of straw mulch. I think next year I will lay this garden out in beds as opposed to traditional rows but other than that I am happy with my progress so far. I love that my garden again is teeming with earthworms and the fertility seems to be improving already. It is turning an already fertile garden into an even more productive and fertile one. No wrestling tillers and smelling gas fumes.
If this experiment with no till works out we may eventually and gradually turn all our gardens into no till. But for right now I don't think we'll be getting rid of the tractor and tiller any time soon. For us long time traditional gardeners this is a huge step and we will try to keep you updated on our progress.
Anyone else out there experimenting with the no till method of gardening?
Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter