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A garden is only as good as the ground that it's planted in. Discussion forum for the many ways to improve the soil where we plant our gardens.

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Old December 21, 2018   #1
ARgardener
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Default How does no till work without beds?

How does no till work without distinct beds? I have a 33 x 33 foot vegetable garden that has 16" rows for planting; 24" walkways between each row (plenty of space for growth and ventilation).
I do as little tilling as possible... I really plan on only tilling once a year to add my host of amendments. Mulching heavy after that.

My impression of no-tillers is that many of them seem to be gardening in beds.. this seems simple considering you really never have to walk in beds.

With my current set up, though, how could one really go full on no-till?? Having to walk up and down every 16" would compact things to concrete, no?? Is my current practice the most ideal for what I'm doing, or do y'all have any adjustment recommendations?
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Old December 22, 2018   #2
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I'd suggest reversing your paths and planting strips,do 24" planting strips and 16" walking paths,but why not do wider beds to begin with, you'll utilize your growing area much more efficiently?
Your planting area won't compact as long as you stay off of it,you could plant tillage radish or any long type radish as a fall cover crop,that way you'll be able to get your amendments down in the soil where you want them, I plant at least five different species for a cover crop (legume, grasses,brassica,cereals,and chenopods)there's amazing things that happen when you have at least these five species in your cover crop,well I better quit,I tend to really get into this subject.
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Old December 22, 2018   #3
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I have a back area I no till in and it does really well.
Not all soil is conducive to instant no till and would take years to get to that point.
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Old December 22, 2018   #4
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I don't mean to argue but I believe all soil is conducive to no-till, but its up to you to get the biology started ,a huge movement is going on in putting into practice this concept, it's really taking root,huge farms are converting to a more sustainable way of growing crops,and it's proving it's success by a more profitable bottom line,and that's what's driving the farmers to make the switch.
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Old December 22, 2018   #5
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I agree, biscuitridge. I do no till (although I do have two raised beds that came with the house) and the idea of layering your compost on top and repeat layering when it breaks down, creates beautiful soil over time. Earthworms are also plentiful. It greatly reduces the number of weeds, and soils don't compact. The breakdown of the compost creates compost tea on it's own. I use wood chips from a tree cutter, but have used leaf litter, rabbit and chicken compost, garden compost in combination with the chips. It has a great combo of leaves and branches and is a pretty good balance of "green" and "brown." When planting seed, I pull back the top layer of wood chips until I hit soil. I plant the seeds in the soil and wait for the seedlings to get several inches high and then push the chips back around the plant. For started plants like peppers and tomatoes, I use a spade to create my hole and place the plant in. No need to push the chips away for larger plants. This method greatly reduces the amount of watering I do also.
I live in a humid, high rain area, so my chips do break down rather quickly.
Finding wood chips can be challenging. Much harder here than my previous location. I'm starting over here so we'll see how it goes. I am currently building the larger garden, and first put down paper over the grass and am spreading 3-4 inches of wood chips over the paper. The grass will become compost over the next several months. The soil does get much better with time. Big thing to remember is do NOT mix the wood chips with the soil Just keep layering as needed.

Here are my pros with no till:
Increasingly better rich soil over time
Low weeds/what weeds you do get pull up MUCH more easily
Low watering needs
Even with lots of rain, the wood chips seem to absorb excess rain
Soil doesn't compact

Here are my cons:
Excess earthworms attract moles. I just find the tunnels annoying.
The chips also attract pill bugs that help break down the chips which is good, but they also damage seedlings which is why you need to push the chips away from seeds until seedling are several inches high.

That's been my experience. :-)
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Old December 22, 2018   #6
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I said instant no till in other words plant something in it and watch it grow.
You cant do that in many places that have this on the surface, by the way which I have lived on.
My front yard you will not instant grow on with no till it takes time to build the soil.

No argument just misunderstanding.

This is what I have in places around my area.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Caliche-5731.jpg


https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...F7C6xcFZ9aL3LO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calich..._and_gardening

Last edited by Worth1; December 22, 2018 at 02:33 PM.
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Old December 22, 2018   #7
brownrexx
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At Rodale's experimental farm they do no till which are just raised areas of soil between pathways. These are fairly far apart but you can get the idea.
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Old December 22, 2018   #8
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Thanks for all the replies!
2017 was my first year growing in this spot... so it's still very near "virgin" soil state.
I have Savannah Series fine sandy loam, per soil test through University of Arkansas (https://soilseries.sc.egov.usda.gov/.../SAVANNAH.html)
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Old December 22, 2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biscuitridge View Post
I'd suggest reversing your paths and planting strips,do 24" planting strips and 16" walking paths,but why not do wider beds to begin with, you'll utilize your growing area much more efficiently?
I've been thinking of this... Also been considering doing double-wide rows (32-34" wide).

Which would be more advantageous for root growth and competition between plants? More space between rows, though compacted, or more plants closer together due to double row, but with lighter; unwalked on soil.

Opinions?
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Old December 22, 2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biscuitridge View Post
I'd suggest reversing your paths and planting strips,do 24" planting strips and 16" walking paths,but why not do wider beds to begin with, you'll utilize your growing area much more efficiently?
I guess if you are growing radishes, beets or carrots or some other low and non-bushy you may be able to tip-toe through a 16" path. One must consider the room needed for carts, equipment, wheelbarrows, etc., as well.
I agree with and why bother with single 16" planting strips, you should definitely double up the planting rows to 30-36" wide, but I'd personally like the same distance for walking rows too.
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Old December 22, 2018   #11
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After a few years of no tilling you can't compact your garden soil any more by walking on it than compacting your yard when you are walking across it. Tilling on the other hand really compacts your soil. Sure it looks all nice and fluffy right after you do it but wait until you have a hard rain.


As an experiment in a little area take a flat piece of land and till it and it will become a mud hole. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
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Old December 22, 2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhines81 View Post
I agree with and why bother with single 16" planting strips, you should definitely double up the planting rows to 30-36" wide, but I'd personally like the same distance for walking rows too.
Came up with a new garden design.. total plantable space went from 37% in the old design to 63%! Using 3' wide planting rows with 18" and 24" walkways depending on the crops.
As said, before I did 2' walkways on all rows.. I dont use carts of equipment that require rows any wider.
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Old December 22, 2018   #13
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Awesome, way to go! !
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Old December 23, 2018   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seaeagle View Post
After a few years of no tilling you can't compact your garden soil any more by walking on it than compacting your yard when you are walking across it. Tilling on the other hand really compacts your soil. Sure it looks all nice and fluffy right after you do it but wait until you have a hard rain.


As an experiment in a little area take a flat piece of land and till it and it will become a mud hole. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
This is what the problem is with deforestation of the amazon rain forest.
They go in clear out the land and the rain has nothing to slow it down so it compacts the more or less poor soil to the point it is useless for anything.
In a handful of years it is like red concrete.

The only good thing that has came out of the deforestation is they have found out just how advance and plentiful these people were many years ago.
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Old December 23, 2018   #15
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It works sort of like that in the Pacific Northwest too. At the border of the Hoh rain forest National Park. In the park a foot or better of soft organic leaf mold/humus/duff, like walking on a soft carpet. Just outside it was logged and it was just a lot of large gravel ( 2 to 4 inch) and scrub growth. Not compacted, just all washed way.
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