The no till philosophy has gained traction in farming. The more I learn about vegetable gardening, I’m realizing no till also applies on a smaller scale.
If you’re not familiar with no till, it basically means undisturbed soil is healthier soil.
Our experience with our vegetable garden last year really brought this home for me. We built the garden in an area that hadn’t been touched–at all–the whole time we’ve owned the farm. I don’t know how long it had been abandoned before then.
Inside the fence, grass and weeds grew as high as they wanted. Every fall they died. Over the winter and spring, the dead grass was matted down by snow and rain. New growth sprouted in the spring and grew high over the summer. Rooted in the fertile soil, the new sprouts fed on the previous year’s plants which were slowly decomposing around them.
When we cleared the ring and planted vegetables in place of the weeds and grass, the vegetables went crazy. They sucked up all of the nutrients from the soil and were super productive.
As the season went on and we harvested more and more from the garden, I realized that if I wanted to continue this productivity in future years, I was going to have to focus on the soil.
I’ve heard other gardeners say that gardening isn’t about growing plants. It’s about growing soil.
That’s also why I’m contemplating going no till.
I’m sure this isn’t entirely accurate, but I have this circle of life idea playing in my head. Whatever nutrients the plants take from the soil as they grow are returned to the soil as the plant decomposes (aside from the fruit and vegetables that we eat, of course). So leaving everything untouched and in place means we have complete soil, not deficient in any element.
Last year, I was quite excited to get our hand-me-down rototiller. But the more I learn about gardening, the more I wonder if we should be using it.
I’ve read a bit about the deep mulch method. It’s supposed to be good for weed control, retaining moisture and also for returning nutrients to the soil. (See The Prairie Homestead and Reformation Acres for some info).
We already have a deep layer of straw on the garden thanks to the manure spreading, so maybe we can build on that. My plan is to work towards something like the raised row method from Old Word Garden Farms.
Anyone have experience with no till or mulch gardening? Aside from the health of our soil, my biggest concern is weeds. Any tips for dealing with weeds?