brand new video:
       
get all 177 hours of
presentations here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

No Till Farming Has Failed Me  RSS feed

 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's two years in a row now that we've got zip-all from our fields and my husband won't tolerate any further experiment. He says that not only have we wasted our money on seeds that haven't produced but now we have to go and buy them all again PLUS the produce we didn't get  ops:

Last year I bravely sowed all our winter wheat into our pasture and yes, it germinated.  But then it couldn't compete with the grasses and died.  Not one ear has survived for harvesting.

This year I sowed all our animal fodder crops into an area that had been lightly 'tilled' by the pigs but the same has happened - seeds germinated but were out competed by 'spontaneous plants'.

How on earth does this system work right at the beginning?
 
Sasa Milicevic
Posts: 7
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You should've sown some cover crop that can outcompete the weeds which gets mowed down before planting your main crop. This way you get a mulch layer that stops many weeds from germinating as well as keeping the soil covered. You can lightly till in the cover crop if you have the right equipment

I used a system of growing hairy vetch which gets mowed down before planting tomatoes and there was no tilling involved.
 
Paula Edwards
Posts: 411
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why don't you try just a small part with the non till method and another small part with something in between and the big rest with a more classical approach?
 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When you invest everything in a upstart company you may gain profits or fail. It's a 50:50 risk. Try new methods only with one strip of land.
 
Marissa Little
Posts: 63
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It also hasn't worked for us.  We did small test plots.  The ground is ROCK HARD here.  Didn't work (gee, imagine that).  Even after trying several different versions of no till (sheet gardening, light till, etc).  It also didn't work on the super sandy loam at our farm.  The weed invasion was bad even with various cover crop methods.  So we just tilled once to get the weeds down and now keep them down by hand (this is only on 1/2 acre).
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
the advice given is good but also there might be other factors, such as drought, birds eating the seed, wind, too hot, no soil contact..etc.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
what are you using for mulch? how thick? how are you sowing the seed? what weeds?

I agree with brenda.

 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
289
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What many of the "No till" commercial growers have gone to is "strip tilling".  If there is too much rubble on the surface, the seeds have a poor opportunity to make soil contact and sprout/grow.  The strip tilling method uses alternate rows each year.  Half of your field gets planted, and the other half has an extra season to decompose.

Once you have good tilth, it is easy to incorporate the stubble into the upper soil with a broad fork.  Then sow an overwinter cover crop, which should be incorporated into the soil several weeks prior to spring planting.  Just leaving a large mass of organic matter on the surface causes most of the nutrients to be lost to the atmosphere, and decomposition may take years, as it does in a forest.
 
maikeru sumi-e
Posts: 313
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:
That's two years in a row now that we've got zip-all from our fields and my husband won't tolerate any further experiment. He says that not only have we wasted our money on seeds that haven't produced but now we have to go and buy them all again PLUS the produce we didn't get  ops:

Last year I bravely sowed all our winter wheat into our pasture and yes, it germinated.  But then it couldn't compete with the grasses and died.  Not one ear has survived for harvesting.

This year I sowed all our animal fodder crops into an area that had been lightly 'tilled' by the pigs but the same has happened - seeds germinated but were out competed by 'spontaneous plants'.

How on earth does this system work right at the beginning?


This system is not one system, but many different ones with different approaches and different techniques. Every place is different.

It's my understanding that many modern or more recent (1900+) varieties of wheat are not strong enough to compete with weeds. This is why they either need ground cover to partner with or to be selected from older, taller, and more vigorous heirloom varieties that can at least keep up with or outcompete weeds. Thus, IMO, most varieties are not well suited for no-till.

Also, as I wrote in another thread a while back about sowing into lawns, lawns and sod tend to kill most vegetables and other competitors if freely sown, and I suspect it's similar with your pasture. Your vegetables and wheat need to get their roots down into the sod and the pasture grasses will resist invasion. Most varieties of wheat have a shallow root system that is easily invaded and outcompeted by other grasses and weeds who inhabit the same root zone. If you're going to sow into pasture, lawn, or whatever, you either need plants that are more vigorous and competitive or to suppress or kill the grasses sown into. This doesn't necessarily mean tilling, but it can mean planting cover crops to smother grasses, piling up mulch so neither grass nor weed seed can see the light, or weakening the existing grasses to the point where they can't fight back.
 
                        
Posts: 66
Location: San Diego
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Patience. no till is not a method which yields instant results. It's a commitment to the future which improves with time.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a 1 acre sub-urban plot, and get the majority of my yield from till systems, but am experimenting in a variety of no-till.  I think no-till is a no-brainer for perennials.  But no-till annual cropping is harder than using tillage, particularly for field crops, the timing and sequencing is much trickier, and it is unproven in many ecosystems. An effective no-till systems might be radically different than the conventional system in terms of timing.

How are the niches filled is a beneficial way?
What are the objects of competition and how do you manage that?
What is the recruitment niche?
What subtle aspects of timing or treatment favor your target crop?
What species are best suited and why?
What is the precise timing of you crop vs. the natural system?
 
nancy sutton
gardener
Posts: 659
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Have you checked out Helen Attowe's videos, etc. on this site?  and hers?
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm sorry to hear of this Allison.

No-till has worked for me, farming about 1.5 acres of annual vegetables almost entirely with hand tools. (We use an ATV and trailer to haul manure and mulch etc)

My soil is 3.5 feet of very sandy-loam on top of chalky limestone gravel.

Our bed prep methods include:

sheet mulching with the following combo's (each layer is watered thoroughly after it is put on the ground)

combo 1-sprinkling of manure, 6-8 inches of tree leaves (mostly maple), 1-2 inches of soil mixed half n half with manure, lightly covered with hay

combo 2- 1-2 inches of soil mixed half n half with manure, 6-10 inches of hay, 1-2 inches of soil mixed half n half with manure, lightly covered with hay

combo 3- 8-12 inches of hay...thats it! This method is the best overall I have found because it is the quickest, easiest, it requires the least amount of manure, and it fosters AMAZING plant growth. I've planted my most sickly pepper and eggplant transplants into combo 3 beds and they gave the best yields, even over the other, healthier transplants from the same tray.

I imagine you could use any meadow plants in place of the hay so if you have a bush-hog/scythe/grass whip, and a wild field, getting a lot of plant material wouldn't be too hard.

To plant in any of these combo's...for seeds make a trench/furrow about 1-3 inches wide, and all the way down to the parent ground. fill with soil and/or manure, water and plant. For transplants, make a fist sized hole down through to the parent ground, fill with soil and/or manure, water and plant.

 
dan collins
Posts: 73
Location: Nova Scotia
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nice one Travis. Your combos are nearly exactly the same that I have experimented with the last two years, with great success in our clay (queen's) soil here in Nova Scotia. We acquired a farm with many round bales rotting in the fields and a barn. The way they roll out makes sheet mulching very easy though two person job to get the bale started.
 
Rhoda Bruce
Posts: 9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There is more than one way to skin a cat.
Change your way of visualizing a garden to include containers, raised beds, large areas heavily mulched with clipping, trellis', and whatever else you can imagine. We don't have to have the garden Grandpa had. I can't have Grandpa's garden. First off, the tractor he bought was more economical in his day and was made better to last. Then Grandpa had more land to work with than me.
Today we know about mulch and raised beds and so many other things.
I have blackjack for soil. Imagine sectioning off a 'garden' and putting as much clippings or pine needles as you can conceive of, then decide where your 'rows' are. Now every foot or so, where you want a plant, you disturb the soil a little and add about 3 cups of improved soil to get the seed or plant started good. Now put the mulch back. Do the whole garden like this and step back. Notice that most of the garden isn't really planted, but is mulched. All that mulch will decompose and will improve your soil. Be patient.
Keep a compost heap. I used to put all my table scraps in mine, but then cats started eating most of it. I used to look at them and say, if I only had chickens again, all that food would be turning into meat and eggs.........done. I also put coffee grounds in the compost. And now I put chicken droppings in the heap a few times a year when I clean up the roost. I just put weeds or pine/cypress needles under the roost to catch the droppings. Great compost. You do this and you always have improved soil to use in small spots. A lot of stuff that ends up in people's garbage, could be used to improve your soil or feed animals (which is compost, only super fast).
Raised beds might cost you some $ to get started. I guess it depends on how you set it up. I have some that were done free by just accepting some tractor tires that were too worn. I know some people are afraid of them because possible leaching problems, but it hasn't killed me yet. But the retaining wall blocks have costed me a lot. DH and I wanted raised beds due to getting ready for old age and for living in flood zones....plus you can grow a lot if you use square foot with the absolute best soil.
A couple of years ago, DH had a stroke of genius. He cut bottoms out of some black plastic planters we had a stockpile of from years of buying trees and plants. He dug small holes and partially buried the bottoms of the pots and filled the bottom with the missing soil and topped it off with good soil and inserted cucs, tomatoes, bells, egg plants, squash (actually we didn't do so good with the squash). We did pretty good and he just cut grass around each plant, except for the plants that needed trellis'. Those got a quick trellis set up in about an hour. He even managed to make it look nice. I was actually proud of him.....well, more than normal. It did bring some food in the house.
Now before someone patented the term Lazagna Gardening, I had the good sense to know that cardboard would rot, in time and in the meantime, would keep the weeds at bay. So imagine if you have a large area you want to work with and have a limited amount of clippings, leaves and needles to mulch with. Save all the cardboard you can, to use to mat down the ground and use the mulch material sparingly. You can add more over the cardboard, if you have enough once you finish the job.
I haven't had a tiller in about 14 years. A relative was suffering from dementia and forgot I bought his tiller. He pulled it apart in his shed to 'fix it.' I told everyone to leave him alone because as long as he was messing with the tiller, he wasn't busting the house apart; and besides he was happy. So I've had to do some smart gardening, instead of all those traditional rows. I can't say, I've not needed to buy some produce here and there, but I assure you, we've taken care of most of our produce needs. It can be done. Just come up with a plan and carry it out.
 
Ben Walter
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you have grazing animals (or know someone who does) you could use them to knock back the strong growing grasses. You might try broadcasting your seeds and then moving sheep or cattle to "overgraze" the area. They will knock back the sod without tilling, push the seed into the soil some with their feet, and manure the ground.

Good luck!
 
J W Richardson
Posts: 76
Location: Council, ID
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Really interesting to try to figure out how to initiate a no till system for wheat, or other large square footage crops.
I think I would divide the field up into quarters, since wheat should probably be grown as part of a four year rotation. On one quarter per season, I would put down a nice thick layer of wheat straw in the fall, and in the spring it should be loaded with volunteer plants. You could over seed with a little more to make sure. Stay on top of anything unwanted growing through the mulch in the beginning of the season, and have your subsequent choice of crops all stuff that winter kills, and has a heavy canopy- another legume besides alfalfa, for instance - maybe strawberry clover? You could use the straw from the first year's crop to cover the area for the second year, so your investment is only for the first batch of straw. I don't know how great that first crop will be - maybe some manure topdressing would help.

I did no till this spring for the vegetables with about a foot of material over a single sheet of contractor's paper, and it worked really well. Not sure why or if it had any effect at all. I applied it in the fall to frozen dry ground. Had an almost 100% kill of couch grass sod.
The contractor's paper was so fast to roll out - it's a 30" or so roll of brown paper bag paper. You have to pay for it and it's not recycled, but it will cover a lot of ground really fast.
 
Caleb Sturtevant
Posts: 2
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alison, that's too bad that it hasn't worked out for you. I want to encourage you that no till farming does work. In my experience to keep grasses and weeds from choking out your seedlings you'll have to mulch. This should generally be done before planting to kill anything that was there and to protect the crop as it comes up. A cover crop is the best way to do this as it grows in place and can be cut down or crimped to supply that mulch layer. This video
is a good introduction on the benefits of no till and cover crops in particular. The aren't permies, by any stretch. They plant monocrops and use some chemical fertilizers and herbicides, but you can take what's good. Hopefully you can keep experimenting with no-till at least on a small part of your fields.
 
Tom Ato
Posts: 1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alison the reason your crops have failed is because of the residual stock of weed seeds in the soil. I have struggled against similar problems myself trying to turn pasture into a vegetable garden.

Suitable mulching materials are essential to stop the weed seeds germinating.

Tilling the soil again just exposes more weed plant seeds to the daylight and triggers their germination
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In nature annuals cannot compete with perennial weeds or trees unless you have destructive forces like tillage/fire/drought/virus/locust. It natural goes to forest or weedy grassland. You just cant win give up already
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
While I don't know what winning or giving up has to do with anything, I think Bengi needs to be taken seriously. In a no till system, that disturbance is created by us, cutting or mulching or crimping, or our livestock (who till!). I have not seen a natural system where annuals survive without a disturbance, and this is one of long-lived theories of vegetation ecology (see the work of JP Grime). Similarly, the modest literature review I have seen suggests that invertebrate populations and fungal communities reestablish after tillage pretty readily. In cool climates I could even imagine frequent tillage systems having permanent utility--but why would you if you don't have to. You either need machine fuel, or a lot of back work spading. So no-till makes sense if you can figure it out. And why not figure it out? It is such an interesting puzzle. Don't throw your whole livelihood into on experiment (that's not resilient behavior). But lets figure it out--AND stop treating tillage like it is some kind of sin.
 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 216
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
21
forest garden goat hugelkultur toxin-ectomy trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Alison,

Thank you for being brave enough to come on a permies forum and say No-Till failed you! I know there is nothing funny about the loss of the productive potential of those few years, but atleast you can say that you have the invaluable experience of know what does NOT work.

If it is any consolation, Fukuoka failed for his first years too

A few points:

1.) Given your initial post, I have absolutely no idea what your ecological/climatic circumstances are, except that you are located in france and you are working with a field and not a forest. If you are looking for help or critical feedback, it is apropriate to provide more information.

2.) Success with no-till methods are HIGHLY dependent upon ones knowledge of the character of the soil and land. Its biology and chemistry, its cycles, etc. I have found that even minor adjustments to a practice can have profound effects on the efficacy of practice. Time of seeding, when and how you introduce livestock into the equation, soil moisture content, relative humidity/sunshine/cloudover, the nature and hardiness of the plant stock, the land use history, and much much more all effect the situation is complex and interdependent ways.

3.) if you are having trouble with competition, my immediate response is that you have a bank of wee seed in the soil which ought to be reduced. germination is often a number game. if you can effectively reduce the number of viable weed sees in the soil through prolonged cover cropping and/or high-pressure grazing, you give your seeds a better chance to grow.

4.) perhaps trying to grow field crops in your situation is not optimal? again, I do not know the whole situation, but diversifying your approach is a prudent part of any permaculture endeavour. Perhaps failure is a result primarily of not having enough diverse enough yields?


Hope these thoughts help. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours, and please feel free to ask more questions (or rant) if you like.
Cheers,
Andrew
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alison Thomas wrote:
Last year I bravely sowed all our winter wheat into our pasture and yes, it germinated.  But then it couldn't compete with the grasses and died


If it's any consolation, I tilled my garden this year and planted 4 fodder crops for my chickens. It looked good for 2 weeks and then the weeds smothered everything. Next year I might try sheet mulching and then planting the annuals.
 
alex Keenan
Posts: 487
12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The issue seems to be the seed load in the soil.
I have found that it can take a couple years of working an area before the seed load become low enough that weeds are not such a big issue.
I tend to plant burdock, cow weed, cow pea, and other cover crops.
I also allow weeds to come up and then kill off the weeds using one of several method before I plant.
In new ground I commonly plant plugs or started plants. I also use corn gluten after planting to keep weeds down.

I would advise working a soil up with a system of easy to grow crops.
I would also plant fruiting one year, greens the next, followed by root crop, then some type of cover crop.
Using a four year rotation you should be able to get seed load down and prevent issue with insects and disease.
 
jimmy gallop
Posts: 196
Location: east and dfw texas
3
bee chicken forest garden hunting trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If it failed you it's not the system ,It's that something wasn't done right or complete.
The system works It's the execution that is hard.Every thing has to be done correctly or it won't work.just like farming if done wrong ,don't work.
 
Lisa Paulson
Posts: 258
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am another failure at the no till system . And I will have a trillion weed seeds in my soil from this year and other years . I don't think I can afford to get it wrong this many times let alone once more . I seem to be battling the creeping buttercup too and that stuff did not even hesitate to grow through cardboard with cedar chips on top that I had hoped to keep the edges of the pasture from encroaching on the garden . Creeping buttercup is my number one challenge , fortunately I can eat a few of the other weeds : )
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1667
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
54
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lisa - I've beaten creeping buttercup in my raised beds using wood chip mulch without cardboard. The trick is to get the depth of chips to around 4 inches. I found that the buttercup only puts down very shallow, loose roots into this and then hand pulls easily. You need to hand pull them though, rather than hoeing or whatever, so that you can trace the creeping tendrils and get back to the mother plant.

Weeding this way once a week for 5 weeks or so did the trick - after the first week it was really fast to do as there were very few coming back through.
 
David Williams
Posts: 133
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alison Thomas wrote:That's two years in a row now that we've got zip-all from our fields and my husband won't tolerate any further experiment. He says that not only have we wasted our money on seeds that haven't produced but now we have to go and buy them all again PLUS the produce we didn't get  ops:

Last year I bravely sowed all our winter wheat into our pasture and yes, it germinated.  But then it couldn't compete with the grasses and died.  Not one ear has survived for harvesting.

This year I sowed all our animal fodder crops into an area that had been lightly 'tilled' by the pigs but the same has happened - seeds germinated but were out competed by 'spontaneous plants'.

How on earth does this system work right at the beginning?


i'm going to have a go at giving you some direction as i don't know how "off the beaten track" you are from standard farming practices, but understanding their mindset i will give you options
Broadacre farming chemical (conventional):
spray round-up , 2-4d and atrozine or simazine residuals to remove the seed burden, speak with your agronomist for finer details for this ....
Broardacre farming chemical (aware):
season cycle ... after harvest while still dry , burn the paddocks (sterilize seeds) wait for first rains then spread ag-lime on newly emerging plants to desiccate them, then spray vinegar on the second set of growth ... then heavily broadcast seed for crop ....wait till harvest
Permaculture (Awake and Active)
Don't grow a monoculture crop , intensively farm a small polyculture production area , then swap (barter) produce for goods or sell them ... buy what you cant produce and let other destructive farmers grow your grains ...

A quick note on yields , i live in the middle of the Australian wheat belt ... we produce an average of 2.2>2.6 tonne an acre (variety dependent) , those same varieties grown in New Zealand yield 7.9>8.4 tonne per acre , because they have a slightly higher rainfall and much better soils....you will get more from an improved water retaining soil on less space, Permaculture/polyculture work as nature does , monocultures are rare in nature (spirulina ponds, mangroves for eg) rather than trying to make attempts to make broadacre "more green" why not intensively farm a small area in polyculture and if it is successful , expand outwards .... before you know it , you'll have your wheat field covered and a converted hubby out their with you !!! excesses of foods for trade/sale and less need for outside inputs... what ever path you choose i hope you succeed at it , third time lucky they say ...!
Peace and Love Dave oxoxoxox

 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 979
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
122
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I tried planting tomatoes via no-till in an old pasture. By using cardboard and 10 inches of mulch and compost. I was able to kill about 95% of the pasture grass initially. But I found that if I didn't keep reapplying the mulch as the grass grew through, the grass took over again. Tropical grasses can be really difficult to control without the use of a herbacide.

Back to the tomatoes.....they did very poorly, while the same variety in my tilled garden 200 feet away grew great. I came to the conclusion that compaction was a major factor. The pasture had been grazed by both cattle and horses for a number of years. Plus a few times a tractor had bush-hogged it down. Livestock can really compact soil. Established grasses and perennials grow fine, but veggies don't tolerate it. I've not grown wheat, so I can't say about that. But it sounds like the wheat seedlings got out competed by plants that already had established root systems in compacted soil. Just my guess.

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Su, I think a better experiment would have been to till half the garden and do half or some small section as no till with cardboard and mulch.

Compacted pasture needs to get uncompacted - ripped or spiked with daikon - before you can think about using it as a veggie garden. Or maybe swaled and planting on the compacted mounds?
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 979
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
122
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I should think that planting into an already establish garden would not qualify as no-till. The soil there has undergone many years of improvement. Initially it was derocked and tilled 6-8 inches deep with compost, manures, and other amendments added. Between crops it is lightly tilled to flip in the old compost mulch before replanting. I could very well plant into it without tilling for the next crop but the soil is already so light that I could hand plant without even using a trowel. Thus any no-till experiment would give very slanted, misrepresentative results. Wouldn't you agree?

So what sort of land would be good for a no-till experiment? Old pasture failed the test here. If anyone is using no-till techniques,I'd like to hear about what sort of land you have had success with. I could see this method working for an orchard, but what about vegetables?

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Su Ba wrote:I could very well plant into it without tilling for the next crop but the soil is already so light that I could hand plant without even using a trowel. Thus any no-till experiment would give very slanted, misrepresentative results. Wouldn't you agree?


No.

The test should be on the same piece of land. Half tilled the other not. You supposedly loose half the organic matter in the soil each time you till. So the initial boost you get from tilling fades more each time and the soil structure gets worse.

Some permaculturists do till to set up their gardens. I'm not sure if geoff lawton tills but he uses a tractor to shape the land for sure. Once it's setup - raised beds on contour- then he never brings in the big equipment - or tills - unless an intern has mucked it up.

I'm curious why you till your garden if you don't have to.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Also, some people complain that permaculture isn't "scientific" enough but you can see it's tricky to set up comparisons! It would take several years to get the results I would expect - improved fertility on the no till section and decreasing soil structure/organic matter on the till side.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 979
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
122
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I cannot agree that with the theory that tilling alone is the cause for losing 50% of organic material in the soil. Who claims that? The decomposition of organic material is a natural process of the soil micro organisms, and in my experience, this process is beneficial to my garden. It is the source of fertilization. Without decomposition of composts and manures, what would be left for the organisms and plants to feed on? Resort to chemical fertilizers? Not on my farm. I WANT the organic materials to decompose. I personally have seen the difference between crops grown on tilled land with plenty of organic material re-applied, and adjacent rows where I did not have anymore available to apply nor the time to till. Big, big, big difference. The rows with reapplication and tilling were productive.

Now if we were talking about tilling and never applying any source of fertility, then of course the fertility of the soil would degrade. Egads, with the lack of "food" and the action of the sun on the exposed soil surface, the micro organisms would surely die out. With micro organisms eliminated, there would be no nutrient production for the plants. I saw a perfect example if this on my farm where I scalped a section of land with the intent to derock and till, but didn't get to it. In just one year that area became quite infertile. The grasses never regrow to more than 6 inches in height and were very unthrifty. The soil suffered dramatically. It took three years to get that soil up to par by repeated applications of compost, other amendments, and reintroduced micro organisms.

In my experience the light tilling combined with feeding the soil results in increased fertility. My farm is proof. I have attended seminars promoting no-till but their "proof" was b...s... Claims of planting into lava rock and after three years of no-till there was supposedly fluffy soil 6 feet down. Oh give me a break. I live and farm on lava soil. If Mother Nature can't do it in 100+ years, why am I expected to swallow that bull of no-till and everything magically degrades. Just ain't gonna happen. I live in the real world. I farm to feed my family and support us. And I do it non-commercial style.

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com

Yes, that was a rant. I don't apologize because there are start-up people here who will try this stuff on their new plots of land and fail. Failure to them could mean the end of the dream. I've seen way too many young families fail in the past and I sickens me. That's why I now teach home food production once a week, develop a demonstration/learning garden, and give free workshops. Yes, free. I don't charge people to learn how to grow food! Ooooooo, looks like I'm slipping into a rant again. So I'll back off.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Su Ba wrote:I cannot agree that with the theory that tilling alone is the cause for losing 50% of organic material in the soil. Who claims that?


Paul Wheaton has said that many times in his podcasts (I guess it could be 30% loss though).
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It was 30% and it was in this thread/podcast:
http://www.permies.com/t/19840/podcast/Podcast-Review-Hands-Agronomy
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Su Ba wrote:The decomposition of organic material is a natural process of the soil micro organisms, and in my experience, this process is beneficial to my garden. It is the source of fertilization. Without decomposition of composts and manures, what would be left for the organisms and plants to feed on? Resort to chemical fertilizers? Not on my farm. I WANT the organic materials to decompose.


We may be confusing terms a bit. No one is suggesting chemical fertilizers. Decomposition of organic material is good but, as I understand it, tilling speeds the process too quickly, kills lots of beneficials and damages soil structure.

What would happen if you didn't till but still added organic matter/compost and let the earthworms till for you?
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 98
Location: Colton Or
1
dog duck goat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I believe the idea is that when you till the increase oxygen in the soil helps to breakdown the nutrients faster, therefore getting a instant boost for the plants, but also decomposing more of the organic material . then necessary. Now I would say that we are still learning about how to properly do all of this stuff. So if someone is not using chemicals and is tilling every so often I feel that they have started to take steps in the right direction. Because Su Ba is right, We need to be successfully producing food.
I would think that it would be wise for people wanting to switch over to no till to start with a small plot and move it. Its easier to manage a small area, and then once you get the system figured out you will have a strong point to start moving out from.
Another thought that I had was using seed balls. I think that would give your seeds a stronger chance of survival when having to compete with others. Its getting extra nutrients as well soil contact. I have not actually tried seed balls yet, but they interest me. Someday I will get around to experimenting with them.
 
Mike Wong
Posts: 36
Location: Southwest UK, Maritime Temperate climate, Zone 9, AHS Heat Zone 1
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't have acres of land myself, but I planted some quinoa transplants into a basic sheet mulch (cardboard and hay) and they are doing surprisingly well, even though they went in late. This was in an area that was very heavily populated with horsetail, bindweed, docks, nettles, couch grass and brambles. The tomatoes I planted in a more elaborate sheet mulch (hay, manure, compost, leaves) are fruiting more heavily than ones I have planted in a tilled bed. I have watered the tomatoes and the quinoa maybe a once or twice since they went in, and it has barely rained here this year at all (for the UK). I can't speak for anyone else, but it appears that no-till can be extremely effective for growing annuals.
 
dan long
Posts: 274
5
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alison Thomas wrote:That's two years in a row now that we've got zip-all from our fields and my husband won't tolerate any further experiment. He says that not only have we wasted our money on seeds that haven't produced but now we have to go and buy them all again PLUS the produce we didn't get  ops:

Last year I bravely sowed all our winter wheat into our pasture and yes, it germinated.  But then it couldn't compete with the grasses and died.  Not one ear has survived for harvesting.

This year I sowed all our animal fodder crops into an area that had been lightly 'tilled' by the pigs but the same has happened - seeds germinated but were out competed by 'spontaneous plants'.

How on earth does this system work right at the beginning?


I have a few suggestions on long-term and short-term weed control.


1) chickens eat weeds before they drop seed. They also eat weed seeds. 'Nuff said.

2) Clear plastic mulch acts like a greenhouse. It will heat the ground and encourage all the weed seeds to sprout. This can exhaust the "seed load" much more quickly.

3) Black plastic mulch can smother existing weeds but it wont cause others to germinate. This is short-term where clear plastic is long-term.

4) If you choose to use starts instead of direct-sowing, you can use corn meal. It prevents seeds from germinating. Alternatively, you can sprinkle on some corn meal after your grain has sprouted but many of the weeds will have sprouted as well.

Hope this helps.
 
You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because
FT Position Available: Affiliate Manager Who Loves Permaculture & Homesteading
https://permies.com/t/69742/FT-Position-Affiliate-Manager-Loves
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!