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Episode 197 No and Low Till Planting Methods

It is my opinion that if you really want a “beyond organic” garden then it behooves you to avoid tilling your soil.  Besides lasagna bed gardening I don’t think we’ve given gardeners too many options on how to plant their crops without tilling the soil to death.  So today I explain the drawbacks as well as some benefits (short term) of tilling the soil.  I also share 5 methods (excluding lasagna beds) that I have used in the past or am using right now to avoid tilling the soil.

8 comments to Episode 197 No and Low Till Planting Methods

  • Joe n TN

    What are your toughts on John Jeavons method of double digging?

  • Anonymous

    I think it all depends on what one is planting.
    If I were planting a row of carrots or beets then I think double dig works great. But I wouldn’t double dig for a tomato or row of corn.
    Jason

  • What a helpful program. It gave me a few new ideas. I’ve been gardening with minimal tillage for several years and am very happy with the results. I still have to dig up loose soil for growing potatoes, but with most other vegetables I just dig a small hole and put in the seed or plant and then mulch with lots of compost and manure. To keep the grass and weeds back I mow or use a string trimmer. It’s WAY less work than hoeing or pulling weeds. I also try to keep a cover of clover all over the place. It’s easy to mow, fixes nitrogen, and helps keep back other weeds. Of course I just let some weeds grow because they’re interesting and provide habitat for more insect species and birds often like the seeds. I get lots of pretty flowers this way too.

    Oh, and my dad still doesn’t understand why I refuse to hoe the corn.

  • Gary B

    Dittos on the helpfulness. Jason communicates the counterproductive energy with tilling.
    We already have knowledge that coventional farming uses no till to a great extent.
    They enjoy the numerous benefits for doing it.
    Why not in the garden? Thank you Jason.

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate that! I’m glad that there was something new there. I didn’t want to do the standard lasagna bed and that’s it episode. I think every method has its place and when we match the method to the need then we come out ahead.
    I’m totally with you on the clover. Love the stuff!

    Jason

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Gary.
    It is odd isn’t it that the one place where a lot of gardeners haven’t innovated is in the area of tilling? Eventually it will get picked up I guess.

    Jason

  • Joe

    I always thought the primary reason for tilling was to stir oxygen down into the dirt. With more oxygen, the organic matter will nitrify faster, and the plants will grow faster.

  • Anonymous

    Joe that is one other reason but its not a good one. I did speak to this a little bit with the compacted soil bit.

    Almost everything related to tilling is based on a flawed cause/effect relationship scenario. People who till believe they have to in order to get the soil loose and oxygenated but they have to till because they till.
    Organic matter nitrifies at the soil surface through aerobic breakdown. Beneath the soil where its devoid of oxygen its anaerobic. So anytime you dig up waterlogged soil and underneath is gray and smelly that’s what’s going on. This doesn’t happen with even the most compacted soil. Regardless the soil is compacted not because there is a lack of organic matter breakdown but rather that the breakdown simply cannot occur. We tend to oversimplify the microbes. We say there are anaerobic and aerobic but there are multitudes in between. Cold temp ones, hot temp ones. Messing up their environment or not giving them organic matter is a much surer way to kill them than not working the soil into a frenzy with a tiller.
    Soil gets built in forests and savannahs get built all over the planet and you’d be hard pressed to find a raccoon or gazelle that knows how to operate a tiller.