Chad and I attended the Small Limited Resource Minority Farmers Conference (what a mouthful!) in Frankfort KY at the Kentucky State University Research Facility in November.  It was enlightening on many levels and the workshop that sparked my interest the most was on no-till gardening.  Of course we just were given a brand new five foot tiller last year which is “the bomb” for breaking up the soil, but…….

This is what I learned.  When we chip and chop at the soil, we create hardship to its ability to absorb and retain moisture and nutrients.  This causes the biology of the soil to not do what it was created to do which is to nourish the plant life and our vegetables in particular.

So what makes this method any better than the usual back breaking garden labor?

  • You need less water – farmers using this method in drought ridden Iowa used less water and had better results when everyone else was drying up – see YouTube video:!
  • Less weeding – I don’t know about you, but I would rather use my energy in harvesting than being down in the back hacking at weeds all the time.  When all your ground is covered with a foot of hay or cover crop mixture the weeds can’t make it.  No sun-no growth!
  • The natural nutrients created through decomposing matter (green manure) are released slower than when the soil is tilled and conserved for season-wide nourishment. No fertilizers needed- organic or otherwise. I hear you saying “NO WAY!”
  • It builds earthworm populations thereby aerating the soil continuously to maximize moisture availability.
  • It reduces soil erosion.  The more dirt we have the better.  The more nutrients we keep for our plants – the better.  The more moisture – the better.

The above video fully shows how awesome this technique is in food production.  Understandably, our Grow Appalachia gardeners don’t deal in that volume of acreage, but the concept is sound.  They use a variety of cover crops for their mulch, but the speaker at the conference from NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) uses 12 inches of hay, furrows the rows for planting and gets the same results.   Happy Gardening! ~ Karen Dial