I have been reading and listening to gardeners expounding on the benefits of No Till Gardening a lot lately.
You know how you hear about something, then suddenly you are hearing about it everywhere. That is how I came to learn about no till gardening. Blogs, articles & gardening podcasts all talking about the subject.
I learned more and agree it sounds like the way to garden. Today I’ll cover the why, the benefits & then I’ll follow up with post on how to No Till.
Sound good? Ok, let’s dig in, not– hahaha !!
What is No-Till gardening?
With No Till Gardening, once the bed is established the surface is never disturbed.
Amendments are layered on, added to the top of the bed. Over time, these amendments are pulled into the subsoil by watering and the busy undersoil organisms.
Weeding becomes largely a thing of the past. It is replaced by mulching – adding more layers which smother the weeds & provide for your plants.
By adding material in layers, the underlying soil surface remains spongy, making it easy for the young roots of newly planted seedlings to work through the soil. This is similar to the way soil is formed in nature. Think of the forest floor.
Why Tilling is a Bad Idea?
Tilling is a bad practice because your soil has its mojo going on and then you come at it with the sharp tines of your tiller and mess the whole thing up. It is akin to turning all the lights up really bright at a rockin’ party. Buzz kill !
Specifically tilling is a bad practice because …
Soil nutrients are lost – All that mixing the soil around releases carbon, eats up the nitrogen and lets in too much oxygen at once.
Soil Infrastructure is Destroyed – Undisturbed soil consists of a network of billions of beneficial organisms, such as bacteria bugs, earthworms etc. Together these organisms create a wonderful environment for plant health. Then the tiller tines break up the party. Not to mention tilling always ends up slicing worms in half. Truth be told, that does not make 2 worms 🙁
Encourages weed growth – When you till dormant weed seeds are brought to the surface and exposed to sunlight. Instead of burying the weeds on the surface tilling helps sprout thousands more!
What are the Benefits of No Till Gardening?
We gardeners like to ‘do’ and putter, so don’t fret about not doing enough if you go No Till. You will be doing quite enough, especially at the start of your No Till garden.
However, one of the best human benefits of No Till gardening is practically no weeding ever. Less doing of that is fine with us.
Let’s take a look at the other benefits…
Promotes Natural Aeration and Drainage
Worms and other soil life are important to healthy soil structure. Worm tunnels provide aeration and drainage. Their excretions work to bind together soil crumbs. The rich in nutrient & moist conditions of the soil in a No Till garden creates the ideal environment for earthworms, whose activity aerates the soil and stimulates root growth.
Thick layers of mulch allows water to pass through easily while shading the soil. This reduces water lost to evaporation, while maintaining a moist growing environment beneficial for root growth. Spongy soil absorbs!
Helps Soil Retain Carbon
Healthy soil contains carbon enriched humus and decaying organic matter that provides nutrients to plants. Soils low in humus, therefore low in carbon, cannot maintain the nutrients essential to healthy plants. As a result low carbon soils need more fertilizers.
Tilling the soil speeds the breakdown of organic matter, which releases carbon based nutrients too quickly. A steady, slow release of nutrients is more beneficial to plant growth. This is what you’ll get with the No Till gardening method. A lack of carbon in soil may also promote erosion, as topsoil and fertilizers are often washed or blown away from garden beds.
Reduces or Eliminates Weeding
Most garden soils contain weed seeds which lay dormant until the soil is disturbed and the seeds become exposed to light. With No Till gardening, these seeds will remain dormant indefinitely. Of course, some weeds will appear in the beds, borne by wind or birds. These are easily to remove by hand. Pull them early in the morning or shortly after watering, while the soil is damp. We all agree less weeding is good!
Saves time and energy
You’ll save energy by using the No Till method, as tilling is crossed right off your garden to do list! As I mentioned, some effort is required in gathering materials for mulching, and applying the mulch during the growing season, but once your No Till garden is established this work is minimal to maintain it.
So what are your thoughts on No Till gardening?
Do you think your soil needs a DO NOT DISTURB sign?
** Kelly **
P.S. Welcome to my new subscribers!
If you love gardening, plants & flowers like the rest of us, you might like to check out my book.
It is called My Soulful Home ~ a year in flowers. It is available HERE (or at my mom’s house – she gives them out like candy on Halloween. Thanks Mom! )