No till gardening


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I am just getting back into gardening since I retired. I have been trying to figure out a way to have my vegetable garden without much digging since I have bad knees. I found some videos on no till gardening and it sounds promising. Has anyone here tried it and if so does it really work?
 
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IMO no-till is a bit of a crap shoot. It is substituting cultivation with chemicals. It may have bit of merit on field crops until the ground nutrients get depleted. For a small garden all it means is a large weed patch.

There are small cultivators that remove most of the strain in cultivation. Many useless, but you pays your money these days and take your chances. Few manufactures can make a reliable small engine.
 
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Its no different than planting in a mulched bed. It depends on your soil type too, as to the suitability of the deeper layers beyond the composted zone you have layered up. I would suggest a bulb screw in a drill to make things even easier.
 
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You only have to mix the soil within the perimeter of the root zone of a given plant. A tomato "hole" can be ~16" diameter and be plenty of ground turned with a shovel. A trench line a foot wide turned with a shovel is plenty for a line of peas. A hole the diameter and depth of a shovel is enough for one lettuce plant. The empty ground and air space separating plants doesn't need to be tilled every year.
 
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This guy does a whole series of organic no-till (no-dig) gardening.
I hope you don't mind if I direct you there.
 
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Actually the gentleman mentioned in the above post is one of the people I have seen that has suggested it. There was also a video on 'lasagna' gardening (building a raised bed in layers). They do not use chemicals and neither will I since I am organic.
 
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Certainly impressive pictures. Very labour intensive. What is done with the produce?

I have about 2000 square feet under cultivation and can hardly keep up with production. I pressure can for storage and grow most of my food. This is Zone 5 so have about 4 frost free months. Very few people grow any food in my area, probably the most productive in Canada. The Niagara Peninsula.
 
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It's the opposite of labour-intensive, as there's less weeding.
A lot to do at the start, but raised beds warm faster than the soil, and extend the season in cooler climes.
Indeed, with your annual mulch of woodchip, Durgan, I don't think your philosophy is that far removed, in principle.
 
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You only have to mix the soil within the perimeter of the root zone of a given plant. A tomato "hole" can be ~16" diameter and be plenty of ground turned with a shovel. A trench line a foot wide turned with a shovel is plenty for a line of peas. A hole the diameter and depth of a shovel is enough for one lettuce plant. The empty ground and air space separating plants doesn't need to be tilled every year.
Your method is exactly what I do. I tilled my entire garden last year for the first time in about 10 years and that was just to dig up eroded soil and put it back where it belonged. I will till again in probably 5 years. On my tomatoes I just dig a hole about 10 inches deep and 2 shovels wide. Takes less than a minute. On my peas and beans I use a triangular garden hoe. Before I backfill the tomato hole I add compost and mix it up in the wheelbarrow. After backfilling any excess soil is just dumped onto the row. I to have bad knees but this method doesn't bother me. What does is the actual setting of the plant in the hole but as long as I want to garden I see no other means except container gardening and I might just start making one.
 

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It very much depends on your soil type. If you have clay, it will be a disaster, as in my case, since clay is like an impermeable layer of solid mass which doesn't not drain water well.

You can dig several holes of about 1 foot tall all over your land and pour water into them to see how fast water drain. If water disappears quickly, then you can try this method. The idea is that when you dig, you might disturb the good bacteria inside the soil structure. But if you have clay, there is no structure to speak of. You will need layers and layers of mulch, manure, and it will take time. Of course, you could do it parcel by parcel and just concentrate your effort in one area. You could also try raised bed or raised big pots for salad leaves, carrots and beans.
 
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It very much depends on your soil type. If you have clay, it will be a disaster, as in my case, since clay is like an impermeable layer of solid mass which doesn't not drain water well.

You can dig several holes of about 1 foot tall all over your land and pour water into them to see how fast water drain. If water disappears quickly, then you can try this method. The idea is that when you dig, you might disturb the good bacteria inside the soil structure. But if you have clay, there is no structure to speak of. You will need layers and layers of mulch, manure, and it will take time. Of course, you could do it parcel by parcel and just concentrate your effort in one area. You could also try raised bed or raised big pots for salad leaves, carrots and beans.
Raised beds are the simplest way to overcome clay.
 
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You only have to mix the soil within the perimeter of the root zone of a given plant. A tomato "hole" can be ~16" diameter and be plenty of ground turned with a shovel. A trench line a foot wide turned with a shovel is plenty for a line of peas. A hole the diameter and depth of a shovel is enough for one lettuce plant. The empty ground and air space separating plants doesn't need to be tilled every year.
I guess you buy the 5 gallon tomatoes and pop them in the ground?
 
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Actually the gentleman mentioned in the above post is one of the people I have seen that has suggested it. There was also a video on 'lasagna' gardening (building a raised bed in layers). They do not use chemicals and neither will I since I am organic.
Careful...all those layers also require oxygen and thus can only be so deep.
 
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The idea is that when you dig, you might disturb the good bacteria inside the soil structure.
No. Disturbed earth is going to have more air, more decaying of the elements, and more microcritters processing the soil into usable plant food. Compacted earth of any variety has and is just the opposite: less air, less microbial activity, less usefulness. The only advantage of not disturbing the earth is that buried seeds will stay dormant nearly forever, or until they exceed their warranty. The major force compacting the ground is rain. If you keep a heavy mulch of anything organic/fibrous there will be very little compaction over 12 months, and be easy to turn with a shovel. All this pertains to nice loam, of course. Clay is a horse of another color.
I guess you buy the 5 gallon tomatoes and pop them in the ground?
I buy the biggest I can find in April. Rarely bigger than a quart, and often just 3" pots. They get 3' x 3' x 7' anyway.
 

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That is the ethics of no-dig: Digging disturbs the inherent good bacteria and / or worms inside the soil. But if it is clay, you really need to dig it and dig it hard. That's what I am saying. No-dig can't really be applicable to clay.
 
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If you till real clay, especially if you add amendments, you make a giant pot which rain will then fill and drown roots, or suffocate them. Its good to at least use a hill type row to keep the plants above the water.
 
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This guy does a whole series of organic no-till (no-dig) gardening.
I hope you don't mind if I direct you there.
As an observation his set up is most expensive IMO. It is very pretty but totally impracticable for most.
 
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That is the ethics of no-dig: Digging disturbs the inherent good bacteria and / or worms inside the soil. But if it is clay, you really need to dig it and dig it hard. That's what I am saying. No-dig can't really be applicable to clay.
That's why it's raised beds, Dowding's garden is on heavy clay.
When you put a six-inch plus layer of light, friable material on top of clay, it drains well, the water disperses and evaporates, and this is deep enough for the root-zones of many plants.
Worms love it and aerate it, and after a couple of years of adding more mulch manually, will deepen the light soil by breaking into, and incorporating with it, some of the clay soil underneath.
Now, although clay soil is difficult to work, slow to breakdown, cold and wet, it does hold nutrients well, and its inculcation to the bed means that it's, to my mind, the BEST medium upon which to use this method.
My allotment is heavy clay, and my onion & garlic beds are fantastic.
I'd turn the whole lot over to no-dig if I could afford to.
 
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