"To move forward we must learn from the past." - Anonymous
Months before delicious heirloom tomatoes are plucked from heavy hanging vines, work has to be done to prepare the soil. Sure we could just fire up the tiller and let it rip, but that would open a whole can of worms.. or more precisely disturb a entire bed of worms which is what no or low-till tries to avoid. So what does it mean when a farm says they are no-till or reduced till and why should you care? Well to keep it simple, undisturbed soil is like a sponge. It's made up of particles and nooks made by roots and organisms. When a tiller tears through soil, the sponge-like quality degrades and it is less able to absorb and hold nutrients and water. Fungi, bacteria and organisms also appreciate when a tiller doesn't tear up their communities. Soil that is tilled less requires fewer inputs like fertilizers and herbicides- relying more on cover crops and rotation. We think its an important step in taking our farm towards sustainability, and a regenerative agriculture model that the earth will appreciate.
So what do we do to prepare the soil? Raised beds are dug by hand, compost from the farm is added (thank you horses), chopped leaves are laid on top and this year we added wood ash because our soil test told us to.. A light till (the only time the tiller will go down the row) is done to work everything in. While the seedlings are growing and the soil is warming we have cooler weather crops poking through the surface including carrots, turnips and golden beets... stay tuned.