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ATP Podcast #53: No-Till Gardening

By dave
April 18, 2014

In today's episode we have a long conversation about no-till. What are the benefits of tilling your garden, and what are the downsides? How can you garden without ever tilling, and why should you consider that? Listen to find out!

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Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Apr 18, 2014 8:28 PM CST
Dave & Trish - I "think" I understand the no-till gardening method to a certain extent. But I still wasn't sure how YOU managed to turn the terrible soil on your large property into good soil?

Cover crops? Lasagna beds? Hugelkultur beds? Worm castings/compost spread around? Leaf and pine tree mulch? Farm animal manure? I don't quite get how you've managed to drastically improve your farmland soil in just a few short years. Is it a combo of all these things and more? (Forgive me for being so dense.)

Your property soil (prior to what you've done) sounds like my yard soil now. I feel like I live in a sandy wasteland. I'm trying to grasp the no-till concept and how exactly to amend my soil. I'd appreciate any clarification about your podcast. I did enjoy it and use the concept of lasagna beds. But what to do about the rest of my yard ... I'm at a loss.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Apr 19, 2014 7:08 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

A sandy wasteland very accurately described our place, too.

But yes, it's a combo of all these things are more. I studied permaculture a long time ago, and 5 years ago we get serious about understanding the concepts and applying them to our farm. There's no single recipe nor is there a set of things to do because every situation is different. You don't pick a solution and go for it. You arrive at a solution through the process.

Have you read the book "Gaia's Garden"? If not, get it. You will find it an excellent introduction to permaculture, along with a candy store of ideas you can use.

I'll also add that a lot of our help lies in weeds and utilizing pioneer species to do our work for us. And, of course, not tilling up the soil. Smiling
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Apr 19, 2014 9:37 AM CST
Dave - Thank you for clarifying how you are enriching your soil. I will definitely check out "Gaias Garden". I am wanting to go as organic as possible and my main desire is to get my sandy wasteland to become desirable soil for growing all my plants and lawn (though the lawn is shrinking more and more every year! Backyard lawn is almost gone!!!! Thumbs up ). I just wasn't clear which methods you were utilizing to get your property on a good soil course. Thanks for all the great ideas and the book recommendation. Thank You! Thumbs up
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Trish
Jacksonville, TX (Zone 8a)
I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Roses Herbs Vegetable Grower
Composter Canning and food preservation Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Organic Gardener Forum moderator Hummingbirder
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Trish
Apr 19, 2014 10:40 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Becky,

An additional note- while our pasture land has *greatly* improved from when we bought the place, it is in no way as excellent and improved as our gardens- by any stretch. But, it doesn't have to be, either Smiling

Improving pasture land is different than improving gardening areas, which is also a bit different than improving lawn area.

The first step is figuring out what you have (or don't have), what your goals are, what you can do with the resources available to you(working with nature- no monocultures) and go from there. Thumbs up
NGA COO, Wife, Mom, and caretaker of 90 acres and all that dwell there.
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Apr 19, 2014 4:31 PM CST
Thanks for the additional info, Trish!

I do have an idea of some of the things I may need to do to make my soil better. Some things I have already done and I do see an improvement. I am like you, Trish .... I get excited to see earthworms in any soil I happen to dig up! They are still pretty rare here in my yard because of the poor sandy soil. But I am now seeing some!!!! Yay!

I need to start a worm composting bin. I know that would really boost my soil to use worm compost! Also watering my garden beds regularly. I now have one of those DIG irrigation systems installed around much of my backyard. It has really made a difference in whether my soil is dead or alive. And I also am using the shade of my Oak trees to help by removing some of the limbs to allow sunlight through during different times of the day. I now have moving shade in my backyard so that the ground isn't too sun-baked or too shady all day. But there is still so much more I can do....
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Apr 19, 2014 7:30 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

We love our worm bins!
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
Image
beckygardener
Apr 19, 2014 8:01 PM CST
Dave/Trish - You'll get a chuckle out of this story that happened today .....

I was removing a small Brugmansia tree from an 18 gallon plastic bin that I had it growing in. I didn't like the tree shape which was leaning way over and it would not sprout new shoots to grow the way I wanted it to, so I took some cuttings and dumped the rest into the pile along our property line. I flipped the container upside-down to remove the Brug stump and roots and all the soil that was attached to it. Upon dumping it, the bottom soil was now on top of the pile and I could see earthworms!!! I picked out 12-13 earthworms from that bin soil! How they got in there I don't know, but the bin had only been out there about 4 months. I had been wondering about the topsoil I've been purchasing and spreading around as well as using in several Brug containers. I wasn't sure if it was very good because it was cheap in price. Well, the worms in that bin using that topsoil now have me convinced that it IS good stuff! LOL! I've never seen that many earthworms in any area of my ground soil. So what does that tell me?! I have really horrible ground soil and .... cheap topsoil used in a plastic bin is the only thing attracting earthworms in my yard! How sad is that????!!! (sigh)

I need to watch some YouTube videos on how to make my own worm bins. I really should do something more to improve my dirt. I WANT EARTHWORMS IN MY YARD!!!!! Big Grin
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
[Last edited by beckygardener - Apr 19, 2014 8:02 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #593846 (7)
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Apr 19, 2014 8:13 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Here's my article on vermicomposting. It shows a really simple worm bin to get you started. Thumbs up

http://garden.org/ideas/view/dave/130/Vermicomposting-Easy-a...
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
Image
beckygardener
Apr 19, 2014 8:21 PM CST
I remember reading that article, but forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me and posting the link! Will re-read it again to get the info I need to start my own worm bins! THANK YOU, Dave!
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Image
dave
Apr 20, 2014 6:38 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

You're welcome. Smiling We also had a past episode of the podcast about vermicomposting, too. We're huge fans of that. In fact, we're getting rabbits soon, mostly because I want their manure to feed to my worms! Hilarious!
Name: Bk
South Georgia (Zone 8a)
Flowers are God's smiles for all to
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QueenEmma
Apr 21, 2014 10:10 AM CST
Sorry Dave I don't have an mp3 player or anything that will play your podcast but I do have a comment about no till gardening. I have 2 huge flower gardens & Giant oak trees. For 18 years I have saved and put back in my soil these leaves and all the pinestraw & pinebark (from the loggers in the woods) and I never till or turn up my garden unless I am changing things around then I grind it in w/ tiller. My abundance of worms is a key and any place you dig you'll find them in our once waste land of sand and bare ground. The fruit orchard and the garden was the last and is now in process and the sand is losing ground. South Georgia has been wet this year and no garden planted yet. Folks never burn what God puts on his floor before considering it for mulch.
Name: Toni Melvin
Sherwood Oregon (Zone 8a)
Region: Oregon Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs Beekeeper
Permaculture Composter Canning and food preservation Bee Lover Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Toni
Apr 23, 2014 9:08 PM CST
@QueenEmma~ Did you know you can play the podcasts right on your computer or notebook, or iPad - whatever it is that you used to post the above comment. Warning though - once you start listening you can’t stop! they are so addicting you will be counting the minutes until the next one Lovey dubby
Toni
I aspire to be the person my dog thinks I am
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Apr 23, 2014 11:05 PM CST
@QueenEmma .....

I'd like to pass along a suggestion given to me when, I, too, made a post about not being able to hear the podcast ... you can plug earphones into your computer and you can hear everything perfectly.

@beckygardener .....

I keep meaning to start a vermicomposting project, but I just haven't dedicated the time to get things set up. Like, Trish, I love my worms ... Smiling For me, I didn't do anything to bring the worms to my dead soil. They just showed up, so if you don't have the time or equipment to do vermicomposting just yet, keep on working with your soil.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

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