Thursday, March 26, 2009

Till or No-Till. That is the Question

Last year's garden at first planting

To make the least impact on the soil, a no-till system would be the best from what I've read. It involves a lot of mulching, but leaves the micro-organisms intact (and the little worms happy). I would like to implement no-till gardening but need some advice. Has anyone tried it on a large garden? Do you end up with moles (or vole) problems?
We don't own a tractor yet but our neighbor is nice enough to let us use his or even till it himself like last year. We also have Amish neighbors who will walk the horses through, rough plowing the garden and adding manure from their barn. This year we asked them not to add the manure because it isn't composted, it's fresh. They will instead dump some for us in a place not yet determined, so it can age for a year before using.
This year my garden might grow to almost twice the size it was (I know, I'm a little crazy!) We would like to grow cover crops and rotate every year by taking a quarter of the space for cover crops. I haven't researched cover crops much yet, so if you have any advice on that, I'll take it. We need to decide on the no-till or till question so we can plan the layout of the garden. With a tractor & tilling, we need access for a straight shot across the garden. In a part of the existing garden (on the right), I would like to have all perennials (blueberries, strawberries, asparagus, herbs, etc.) This cuts off the long run of the existing garden. The blueberries, a few strawberry plants & asparagus are already in place so we don't wish to move them.
So, that is the dilemma. Any ideas?

11 comments:

Sue said...

Hi guys
Wow, you're doing the same thing..I'm doubling the size of my garden......putting small fruits in the new half. I, too, am exploring no till...mulching heavily with newspaper/cardboard, and topping grass clippings. I use raised beds for my veggies, and where it is open, my mole is having a blast, so I don't think mulching/no till will add to problems if you don't already have them (the moles)
It will be fun watching your progress. Good luck!

Thistledew Farm said...

There is a lady in Virginia, she's a horticulturist specializing in herbs that does extensive no till gardening. Check out Beagle Ridge at http://beagleridgeherbfarm.com/ I did small scale last year and it worked great. Her ideas for growing herbs in gravel fines is awesome also - I've done this three times and the herbs love it. She is the best knowledge for this type of info....

The Blue Ridge Gal said...

So how do any of you keep the deer from eating your garden? We have enough deer in our neighborhood to start a deer farm!

Di
The Blue Ridge Gal

Peggy said...

We do a big garden and then several raised beds. I always save my newspapers, wet them and put them down in my gardens around all my plants and between the rows. Then I bring the mulch we save from the goat stalls and spread that pretty thick over the newspapers. I haven't had to hoe or till a garden in years. I love it! Its a little more work at the beginning of the season but well worth it!

Kelle said...

WoW! so many good ideas and links! I'm going to try Peggy's idea, as we have a horrible time with bindweed. Mulching with straw and hay didn't deter this weed, it simply wrapped it's way through and made it a bigger problem. Maybe a thickness of news paper will deter this, "thorn in my side". Most of the other weeds we deal with are annual and if kept pulled aren't a huge problem.

I'm not sure about no till, but will check out the site given by Thisledew Farm, thanks for sharing it.

Blessings from,
The Never Done Farm

Barb and Steve said...

Sue...there hasn't been miles in the garden yet, in the fields though. I'm not keen on newspaper because of the ink. I know, soy based for the most part, but I tend to stay away from all chemicals if possible. I hate to use plastic..we'll see. Not through researching yet.

Thanks TF for the link I'll check it out.
Di..so far no deer in the garden. there is a lot of corn for them to keep busy with around us, maybe that is why. We have trouble with our neighbor's cows & horses though. They never seem to stay on their property. They ate all our corn last year & tromped through the tomatoes. No matter how we tell them to keep the animals out, they are always back again.

angie said...

Hi Barb, I'll be following your progress closely.

I'm experimenting this year at the our farm too. I think I am going to burn off turf, add composted manure, cover with newspaper and cardboard and then cover with biodegradable mulch. Then I will poke holes for plants.

I am concerned about critters though. I'm looking at fencing too. Premier has good fencing options (and they are in Iowa).

ChristyACB said...

I doubled the number of beds I had this year and I do raised bed gardening. I gotta say, having done it both ways, I'll never go back to "regular" gardening.

While I don't adhere religiously to Square Foot Gardening, I do use a lot of those principles and it really is true that my raised beds raise the same amount of food in about 20% of the space.

I used wood, but in my retirement place I'm sourcing stone pulled from fields instead. I also like that it is sooo much easier to keep stuff out of the beds as the need arises. It is way easier to throw or drape a net around a bed of corn using some tall stakes than to try to fence out deer of a large area.

Dirt stays so loose and nice, you'll love it!

Anne Marie said...

Here's my advice after gardening for over 10 years organically-
till-
I know you and I share the same type of soil (relatively) and location type...and I have to say that due to the increased amount of pesticides thrown on the surrounding fields, that the bugs like the refuge in my garden! and their eggs and such do as well...they'll winter over now (they've gotten hardier)...

I have not tilled in over 3 years to see if that would be a better approach (worms, etc. and all) but the bugs have increased, and after studying their habitats and the zone's climates and requirements, I am definately going back to tilling.

*SHOO---THAT WAS LONG WINDED!*
but really- I'd be glad to give you my advice further :)

Peace and blessings.

Barb and Steve said...

Angie, thanks for the fencing tip & advice on what you are looking into.

Christy..I don't have any raised beds here at the farm (yet) but have thought about it. It would be a good way to fence in a small area for a lot cheaper than my whole garden.

Anne Marie...that's bad news about the bugs! Most of the area directly next to our farm has been left untreated, so I'm not sure if we would have the same problems. I do appreciate any advice I can ger. Thanks!

Barb and Steve said...

Angie, thanks for the fencing tip & advice on what you are looking into.

Christy..I don't have any raised beds here at the farm (yet) but have thought about it. It would be a good way to fence in a small area for a lot cheaper than my whole garden.

Anne Marie...that's bad news about the bugs! Most of the area directly next to our farm has been left untreated, so I'm not sure if we would have the same problems. I do appreciate any advice I can ger. Thanks!