Garden Efficiently With No-Till Techniques: Learn How to Reap the Benefits of No-Till Gardening
No-till gardening is a popular technique that allows gardeners to grow vegetables without disturbing the soil. This method of gardening has many benefits, such as reducing weeds, improving soil structure and fertility, and conserving water. But how does no-till work without distinct beds?
A 33 x 33 foot vegetable garden with 16" rows for planting and 24" walkways between each row provides plenty of space for growth and ventilation. The key to successful no-till gardening is to do as little tilling as possible and mulch heavily after adding amendments once a year.
Reversing paths and planting strips is one way to go full on no-till in this type of set up. Doing 24" planting strips and 16" walking paths will reduce compaction from having to walk up and down every 16". Wider beds can also be more efficient when it comes to utilizing growing area. Planting tillage radish or any long type radish as a fall cover crop is an effective way to get amendments into the soil where they are needed. It's recommended to plant at least five different species for a cover crop: legume, grasses, brassica, cereals, and chenopods.
Not all soil is conducive to instant no-till; some may take years to get to that point. However, all soil is capable of being converted to no-till if the right steps are taken. Layering compost on top and repeating layering when it breaks down helps create beautiful soil over time while encouraging earthworms. Wood chips from a tree cutter, leaf litter, rabbit and chicken compost, and garden compost can be used in combination with one another for a good balance of "green" and "brown." When planting seed, pull back the top layer of wood chips until hitting soil before planting seeds. For larger plants like peppers and tomatoes, use a spade to create a hole before placing the plant in.
At Rodale's experimental farm they practice no-till by creating raised areas of soil between pathways. This method greatly reduces the number of weeds and soils don't compact. Double wide rows (30-36") are beneficial for root growth and competition between plants compared to single 16" planting strips. Walking paths should also have the same distance so carts, equipment, wheelbarrows can fit through comfortably.
How does no till work without distinct beds?
No-till gardening involves minimal tilling and heavy mulching. Reversing the paths and planting strips, with 24" planting strips and 16" walking paths, is one way to practice no-till. Planting a cover crop of at least five different species can help get the biology started.
Is my current practice the most ideal for what I'm doing?
You may want to consider wider beds to begin with, as this will utilize your growing area more efficiently. Additionally, you may want to consider double-wide rows (32-34" wide) for root growth and competition between plants.
Is all soil conducive to no-till?
All soil is conducive to no-till, but it is up to you to get the biology started. It may take years for some soils to reach a point where they are ready for instant no-till.
What is the best way to practice no-till?
The best way to practice no-till is by minimal tilling and heavy mulching. Reversing the paths and planting strips, with 24" planting strips and 16" walking paths, is one way to practice no-till. Planting a cover crop of at least five different species can help get the biology started.