No-Till Vegetable Gardening

May 13, 2014

There is a lot going on in the garden now, but I thought I would take a little time to mention something that I find important.  Soil is not just dirt.  It is full of life and all the creatures in the soil make up the soil food web.  It is pretty common to rototill the garden to make the soil nice and fluffy to plant in.  However, that tiller is killing a lot of the life that lives in the soil, like worms, slugs, earwigs, centipedes, pill bugs, and even smaller critters.  Since these creatures eat other life forms and are food for other creatures the web of life is disrupted, and if this is done continually then the soil gradually dies.  Then you just need a lot of synthetic fertilizer to get your plants to grow.

I know there are different opinions on this, and a lot of great gardeners till their gardens each year.  I just think there is a healthier way that seems to work, though I admit I still have a lot to learn about soil.

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Collards planted a few weeks ago are growing strong.  I just dig a hole and amend the soil a little in the hole.  The soil is dark and has plenty of worms.

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I put up a lot of big tomato cages for my two little tomato plants.  Once some of these plants start growing they can get aggressive and will take as much room as you give them.  I should be able to eat from these red and green romaine lettuce plants in a few days.  Plants that will be in this area and a little beyond the picture are tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, cucumbers, turnips, eggplant, brussel sprouts, mint, and green beans.  A bunch of other vegetables are in other areas…  Once the seeds sprout and everything is growing I will put down some more mulch.

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This book, I checked out from the library, explains no-till gardening among other good garden practices.

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Pak choy flowers and a pollinator.

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I noticed the rhubarb was flowering again this week.  I cut back all the flower stalks.  The article I was reading said that if you keep cutting them back the plant will eventually go back to focusing on growing leaves instead of flowers.  I am hoping that is also true for my vegetables that made it through the winter but are flowering now.  Last summer the kale flowered all summer, but it also grew a lot of leaves that we ate until December.

I made my first batch of rhubarb sauce yesterday!

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I just finished listening to this audiobook, A County Year.  I did not want it to end.  It describes a bee keeper who lives in the Ozarks and what happens to her over the course of a year.

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We have a guard robin, instead of a guard dog!  Lots of bugs these days for this bird!

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One morning I threw part of a bucket of water on my strawberries and I saw the snake scurry off.  I don’t think snakes like strawberries, but they may keep my patch more free of pests like slugs.

It is almost berry time!

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15 Responses to “No-Till Vegetable Gardening”

  1. Leslie said

    I dream of the day my garden is well-established and I don’t have to till it! We’ve only had it for 2 years, so it tries to turn back into lawn still. :)
    My husband farms and they are no-till there, makes sense that it would be the same concept in a garden!

    • The main thing is to start gardening and then things will develop. So glad you have a garden! I did double dig my garden when I moved here 9 years ago, but that took a lot of work and that was the last time I did it. I tried this and that, but now I just put compost and manure on the garden each year, if possible.

  2. I’m jealous of your real vegetable garden. Mine has turned into a mixed patch of herbs and random volunteers (including some really big mulleins). Two Norway maples about 20 feet away have made the soil rooty and the space too shaded to grow vegetables well. I do manage to grow tomatoes in big pots, but it’s not the same. On the other hand, I certainly don’t need to till. :-)

  3. prb said

    what a peaceful and happy post!!!
    every time i dig into my compost/manure pile – its like “oh no, watch out worms!!!”…i always wonder do people keep stopping and trying to pick out all the worms and bugs to keep them from harm – takes me forever to dig but now i see im not the only one who worries after the little ones!!!
    i so admire your lush garden!!! wow!!!
    this is my pups first summer with us – she’s dug up just about all my plants ive planted this spring. ive had to reseed my beans three times this so far – but at least they come up quickly – after the rain, i see them coming up so hopefully they will make it this time….ive started new plants but they are just now coming up so now i am soooo behind….ill see what makes it this year. my radishes are coming up, some beans. of course, tomatoes coming up and i havent planted tomatoes in years – i just throw around a few that were left on the plant in the fall and in the spring they come up again. i think it might be the compost she likes – maybe i shouldnt have put it down.
    might be spare pickings this year in my garden!!!! ill have to live vicariously through you!

  4. dmheadrick said

    Organic Gardening Magazine frequently touts no-till gardening. Your garden is off to a great start. We wait until Memorial Day in New England. Can’t wait!

  5. You should read Sue Hubbells ‘A book of Bees’ I love her style of writing! I applaud you for the no till method. I only use the tiller twice a year. Once after the garden is done when I sow winter wheat and the other when I till the winter wheat under in the spring. That’s probably as close as I will get to the no till method.

    • I tried a rye cover crop once, but did not know how to turn it under. I guess the tiller would have worked, like you are doing. I tried digging it under with a shovel and the grass kept sticking up and growing! I will have to check out Sue Hubbells other book(s).

  6. bittster said

    Oh my gosh I feel lazy looking at your garden, so well planted already! I agree that digging is overrated, I usually need to do it anyway to dig under all those weeds that sprout up, but if I were a better mulcher (or had more decent mulch!) things would be different.

    • I think I need a lazy garden! I am tired tonight from pinching back sedum, goldenrod, and phlox… I need to get the mulch down, too, though I did some weeding to prepare for that. This is the time of year when all the helicopters fall from the maple tree. I can never decide whether to let them fall before mulching or let them fall on the mulch.

  7. toothius said

    Great post. Totally agree about tilling. Life is a good thing.

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