Renting a tractor and tilling the field would cost perhaps $200 including fuel. Some people might badmouth plowing the soil, but I presume that the reason that tilling has survived for 10,000 years is because it has proven itself to be inexpensive and productive. I suppose that tilling has shown itself to be sustainable, because since time immemorial farmers have tilled their fields: Regardless of how bad the economy is. Regardless of availability of fossil fuels. Regardless of social decay or warlords. Regardless of environmentalists or mycologists.
The reason that I don't apply mulches or wood chips or other organic matter to my farm is that it's unaffordable. Small-scale growers can pretty much do anything that they want without calculating costs for labor or materials. You ever tried to gather together enough cardboard to cover 22,000 square feet? That's about 4400 boxes, or a pile 140 feet tall if broke down and laid out flat. That's around 20 to 40 pickup trucks full of boxes. You priced gasoline lately? Who can even supply that quantity of boxes? Putting a 4" layer of organic material on a half acre garden requires 272 cubic yards. The cheapest organic material around here costs about $25 per cubic yard delivered, so that works out to around $7000 per half acre. (6" = 407 cubic yards = $10,000.) Have you calculated how much labor it takes to spread out enough wood chips to cover 22,000 square feet? Last time I did the math for my 4 acre garden, it would have taken longer than the available growing season. I suppose that if I had the money to buy the materials that I could pay to have the supplier spread them for me as well.
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