Talk to me about "no till" gardens

AMKuska

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I believe I've heard a few of you doing the "no till" method of gardening, and I'd like to hear your experience with it. I just had an enlightening soil building class at my local library, and I'm interested in giving it a try.
 

flowerbug

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i do low-till vegetable gardening. which means in most gardens i don't disturb more than 10% of the soil below the surface layer. the surface i have to keep scraped of weeds or Mom starts having canaries.

no vegetable gardens here are fully no-till for ever. i do some amending with worms/worm compost or other scavenged organic materials. sometimes i am perching dirt up above the flash flood plain. etc. i just pick a few gardens each year to put most of my efforts into and the rest i keep up as described above. the few gardens i work on extensively might be dug down quite a ways in my efforts to eradicate certain weeds or to bury organic materials so it can break down and turn into peat.

it's a pretty efficient way to do things as i don't use any machines beyond some bringing in of wood chips or whatever else people bring (nobody has been the past few years so that's actually made things a lot calmer than usual).

this is the short version of what i do, you can search for my past articles on this as i'm pretty sure i've gone on about it many times over. :)
 

Prairie Rose

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I tried it using local materials that I had on hand. I ended up accidentally poisoning my soil with a herbicide that passes through the animal and doesn't degrade when composted when adding a layer of composted horse manure to my garden. It was a horror story of epic proportions...

After several years, I am trying again in my raised beds.
 

chic rustler

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i do low-till vegetable gardening. which means in most gardens i don't disturb more than 10% of the soil below the surface layer. the surface i have to keep scraped of weeds or Mom starts having canaries.

no vegetable gardens here are fully no-till for ever. i do some amending with worms/worm compost or other scavenged organic materials. sometimes i am perching dirt up above the flash flood plain. etc. i just pick a few gardens each year to put most of my efforts into and the rest i keep up as described above. the few gardens i work on extensively might be dug down quite a ways in my efforts to eradicate certain weeds or to bury organic materials so it can break down and turn into peat.

it's a pretty efficient way to do things as i don't use any machines beyond some bringing in of wood chips or whatever else people bring (nobody has been the past few years so that's actually made things a lot calmer than usual).

this is the short version of what i do, you can search for my past articles on this as i'm pretty sure i've gone on about it many times over. :)
sounds similar to what i do
 

Prairie Rose

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I have a friend who raises horses and gets hay from multiple sources...and being horse hay instead of feed for animals meant for food, she doesn't worry much about it being sprayed, but more about the price and how well the horses eat it. I have gotten composted manure from her for my gardens for years with no problems, but this herbicide was new. It doesn't lose its herbicidal properties after passing through the animals, and the composting process doesn't break it down either.

I was trying the back to eden style of no-till gardening. cardboard or newspaper to smother the weeds, a thin layer of compost, and several inches of mulch on top of that. I had done half the garden in the fall as an experiment, using straw I know hadn't been treated and more composted manure from this farm. It was successful there, and I was enjoying not having to pull so many weeds, so after gathering enough cardboard and newspaper, I did the other half using a fresh batch of composted manure right before planting my summer crops. Seedlings died overnight, seeds never sprouted, or if they did they wilted away as soon as I saw green. A couple of older plants withered and died within a week. This was all in a garden we had been working in for four or five years. It wasn't as fertile as our old garden, but it was established and the soil quality was improving each year.

I tried replanting three times to the same results. A lot of googling and my friend placing a call to the farmer she bought her hay from found the source. He hadn't known it wouldn't break down in compost either, or he would have warned us. Unfortunately by the time I figured out what the problem was, my parents decided the problem was the no till and tilled it all into the soil because that's how they had built up the amazing soil in our old gardens. For them a no-till method is the same as they do in croplands...leaving the roots and short stems of old plants in the ground overwintering to prevent erosion.

If I could have scraped the top layers off my garden would have recovered in a short amount of time.. Up until I got a batch of bad compost, it was working well for weed supression. I didn't do it long enough to see any soil improvement.
 
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Prairie Rose

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Lol yes, I know that too :) Luckily my friend's compost heap gets HOT...I have never had a problem with seeds sprouting from her composted manure, as long as I'm careful to take from the oldest part of her pile. It sits on an old concrete slab and gets turned weekly.
 

Xerocles

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i do low-till vegetable gardening. which means in most gardens i don't disturb more than 10% of the soil below the surface layer. the surface i have to keep scraped of weeds or Mom starts having canaries.
I'm not being an A$$ here. It just struck me as funny. You don't disturb more than 10%of the soil below the surface. The earth is 8000 miles in diameter. That means you never disturb more than 800 miles deep? I want too see your tiller. Was that supposed to be 10 inches?
 
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