No-till gardening is a great way of increasing the yield of your garden without tampering with the soil’s ecosystem. The topsoil is left undisturbed, and this means that the microorganisms underneath remain unperturbed as well.
These microorganisms play a vital role in rejuvenating the soil and providing the necessary nutrients your plants require to thrive.
Read on to learn more about how to start a no-till garden. You will learn the benefits of no-tilling versus the digging style of gardening.
What is No-Till Gardening?
No-till gardening is a method of farming where the surface of the garden areas is left undisturbed. It avoids intentional disturbance of the soil.
Many farmers dig their land while farming because this is the only technique they know and one that has been in practice for thousands of years. However, according to One Green Planet, tilling is the main contributor to soil erosion, poor soil health, low yields, and weed growth.
Pros of The No-Tilling Technique
- Saves Money. Since you will not be spending money on tractors for plowing, you may save money in the long run. Tilling is also a labor-intensive undertaking.
- It preserves the soil’s ecosystem. The soil is a complex ecosystem that contains all kinds of organisms. Since the soil is not disturbed in the no-till method, these microorganisms are left alone to thrive and play their role in contributing to the soil’s fertility.
- More yields with the no-tilling method. Over time, the soil becomes fertile because of the constant composting, mulching, and the action of microorganisms. Fertile soil improves crop yield.
Cons of No-Till Gardening
- It can be hard to control pests, diseases, and weeds. Tillage can help control pests because the soil gets disturbed. Weeds harbor numerous pests and diseases. Since you will be getting rid of these weeds, you will also be controlling the spread of the pests. You may have to look for alternative ways to control these pests while using the no-till method.
- The no-tillage technique can be expensive to start. Although you may eventually spread the costs over time following higher yields, the no-till method is still more expensive at the onset because you may be required to buy new machinery.
- You may get a slug problem. Slugs love to hide in the foliage. Since there is no tilling, there may be plenty of areas for the slugs to explore in your garden.
Why you should avoid tilling
There are several disadvantages of tillage;
- Tillage disturbs microorganisms: Tillage turns the soil and disturbs helpful microorganisms.
- Tillage facilitates soil erosion: It loosens the soil. Loose soil is eroded easily if there is heavy rainfall.
- Tillage is a tiresome process: It takes a lot of time and a lot of energy to plow a piece of land, especially if you are not using the right machinery.
How to Start a No-Till Garden
Identify your garden’s location
Establish where you want to start your garden. The kind of crops you want to grow can help you narrow this down.
Ensure the surface is smooth
Clear anything that might hinder you from setting up a good garden. Remove large rocks, plastic waste, and harmful weeds from the garden space.
Add a layer of compost
When removing weeds from the previous step, cut the stems to the ground and clear the plant matter. Do not uproot the plant. The compost layer you add will deprive the roots of any air.
These roots will eventually die and decompose, ensuring re-germination has been stifled. Composting also introduces more nutrients to the soil.
Dig holes on the surface
Create a plan on the surface depending on the types of plants you want to have. Use an auger to dig holes to a certain depth. An auger ensures that the surrounding area is not disturbed in any way.
Plant your seedlings
Depending on the kind of crop, add fertilizer and plant your seedlings. You may not want to use artificial fertilizer because all the nutrients your seedlings may require will be provided by the compost you added earlier.
Add a layer of mulching to keep the moisture trapped inside the soil.
How to Maintain a No-Till Garden
Once you have started the garden and planted your first crops, maintaining a no-till garden is easy.
Pull weed using hands or special tools
When unwanted weeds pop up, remove them using your hands or specialized tools that will not disturb the soil. They will be easy to uproot since their roots will have formed in the compost layer instead of the actual ground.
Use organic fertilizer instead of artificial ones
Composting is an organic way of adding nutrients to your soil. Instead of throwing your kitchen waste away, start composting in your backyard and use this compost in your no-till garden. Look for a composting tumbler or create a DIY one for this purpose.
Minimize walking on the surface of your garden so that you can prevent compacting the soil.
Harvesting and replanting
Once you harvest from your no-till garden, add another layer of compost and replant. If possible, practice crop rotation as this will help control pests and diseases.
Frequently asked questions
How do you winterize a no-till garden?
The best way to winterize a no-till garden is by planting frost-tolerant cover crops. If you are not enthusiastic about doing that, you can use a polyethylene tarp to cover your garden area until the winter season is over.
Keeping weeds out of a no-till garden?
Removing weeds by uprooting them by hand is the best way to keep them out of your garden. I would not recommend using pesticides for this purpose. Composting and mulching are also very effective at ensuring weeds do not re-germinate.
What are The Best No-Till Garden Tools?
- Pitchfork: A pitchfork is used to loosen the soil and create planting holes.
- Auger: A mechanical auger digs holes precisely to the required depth without disturbing the soil around this hole.
- Garden hoe: A garden hoe is a basic garden tool used to level the ground, rake in debris or perform other garden duties as you see fit.