Becoming a No-Till Farmer No-till is like a lot of things in life, in that if you know what to do, you can go from beginner to competent practitioner quickly. It’s when you don’t even know where to start that you can spend a lot of time spinning your wheels. As anyone who has ever bought an electronic gadget knows, the included booklet that has pages and pages of explanation is preceded by a quick-start guide. They know all you really want to do is turn it on. The process of understanding no-till methods, choosing one or more that are appropriate to your farm, and then getting started with a no-till method is a little more complicated than turning on a new smartphone. But this book will allow you to get growing with just what you need and nothing more. Once you’ve gotten going, you can get into identifying the species of invertebrates in your soil, come up with cash/cover crop rotations that make the most of your season and fine-tune the rest of your system. But in the meantime, too much information can be a distraction. Learn to ride the bike before you try to pop a wheelie. Whether you just heard of no-till and are wondering how anybody could possibly grow anything without tillage, or whether you’re staring at a grassy field wondering how you’re going to grow something in it, let this be your guide to picking methods and getting started with no-till. If you want to get deeper into any of the methods, check the bibliography for further reading.
About the author:
Andrew Mefferd is the editor of Growing for Market magazine and author of The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution and The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook. He spent seven years in the research department at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, traveling internationally consulting with researchers and farmers on the best practices in organic farming. Before that he worked on the research farm at Virginia Tech, doing field work researching how organic no-till vegetable production compared to tilled organic production. He has worked on farms in Pennsylvania, California, Washington State, Virginia, Maine, and New York State. He now farms in Cornville, Maine.
I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns. It is useful information for everything ranging from backyard gardens to very large farms. Had it contained a chapter with more detail about specific cover crops I would have rated it a 10. In all fairness, the author did include a link to find that info.
The first half of the book is about why to use no till techniques. The second half describes how. It goes into details about building soils rather than destroying them & then the tools that can be used for various scales of plots & different budgets. It describes advantages & disadvantages of different tools & techniques. The bottom line is that no till is all about preserving soil life for better plant health & the book reinforces that concept in many ways. There are detailed descriptions of how to implement tarping, crimping, & various mulches. The author provides a lot of insight from his many years working on farms & at a research facility developing & testing no till techniques. There are nice pictures that clearly show many of the things he describes. I've been using no till as much as possible for many years but I still learned new things. One or two I'll start using next season. Experienced gardeners/farmers will probably like & learn from this book but it would certainly be a real eye opener for a complete beginner.
The picture below is not from the book. He does discuss flaming but doesn't especially recommend it. It's just a fun pic to use here.
Argue for your limitations and they are yours forever.
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