Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In traditional and modern farming, the life-cycle of a crop requires many labor and/or energy intensive steps in the field, including tilling, sowing, spreading fertilizers, spraying pesticides, weeding multiple times, and finally harvesting. Labor requirements are even worse for rice due to the transplanting step, which requires many days of backbreaking labor.

In natural farming, all of these steps are virtually eliminated. Let's take a look at how tilling is replaced:

Tilling is done to for loosening the soil, mixing nutrients, and destroying weeds. In fact, tilled soil becomes compacted more easily, nutrients, and the top soil itself, are more likely to runoff in subsequent rains, and weeds get a better start in the newly tilled barren ground. Furthermore, as the organic material in the soil is exposed to air, it oxidizes rapidly, and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide.

In natural farming, since the soil is left completely undisturbed, these problems are avoided. Instead, the soil is loosened, aerated and mixed by worms and other creatures. The roots of crops and the few weeds are left in the ground, which also keep the soil loose, and increases the nutrient content of the soil. A permanent ground cover (usually of white clover), and the straw returned to the field suppresses the weeds, which in any case can not take hold as vigorously as when the soil is disturbed.

Thus, the no-tilling approach in natural farming eliminates the labor, equipment, and time costs of tilling, and continually increases soil fertility, reduces erosion, and holds weeds in check. Here's some more information about the reasoning behind no-till, and the benefits, in Fukuoka's own words.


Sidonie said...

When we first moved here 5 years ago, we put black plastic over our 100x100 garden area, as it was raw land, never gardened, and had some weeds. We left it on for 2 months, into the fall, removed, tilled lightly, and planted. That was the best garden we have had, with the production going down each year. We now do about 50% of our gardening in a greenhouse with beds made of the topsoil from our woods/forest and our rabbit manure. My question is, how would we begin our garden for this year, if we did not till? The ground is full of over grown weeds and grass from the winter. Normally we would till, add manure and some extra bags of topsoil and then plant. I absolutely do not want to put cardboard(full of industrial chemicals) on my ground. It is too late to do the black plastic thing, and I cant plant in the weeds...

Chinmay said...

Sidone, thanks for the question. The presence of weeds and grass in your garden means the soil isn't highly compacted - they've done some work for you of loosening and aerating the soil.

If you can mow down all the weeds and grass (you can either leave the mowing in place if the weeds haven't gone to seed, or compost it separately) that may be enough for the hardier varieties get an advantage - esp the stronger root vegetables.

Especially if you're not growing from seeds, you can lay straw mulch all over the place, and then make space through the mulch by a garden trowel while you're scooping out a bit of the soil for the plantings.

Since your green house is going strong, I would advise trying this out in a small patch of the garden with a few different vegetables, so that you know what works best in your garden.

Good luck!


blogger templates