Saturday July 11, 2020
Not sure when I have felt so inspired and accomplished in garden work. Yet, I’m not completely exhausted from doing it.
I’ve just come indoors from my chore time in my research no-till garden. One hour in this garden on Saturday mornings, alone with just 3 pieces of home lawn equipment and some silage tarps is changing my farming and gardening life.
This garden is 80 feet long and has 9 permanent beds. I built these beds by hand with a shovel last fall.
It seems on each of these Saturday morning chore sessions, I gain more understanding. This week brought several.
Pathway epiphany: landscape fabric must be maintained!
Most of the pathways and the perimeter of this garden are covered with heavy duty woven landscape cloth. I’ve not been a fan of landscape cloth in the past, but am learning more about its benefits in this type of application and how to manage it.
I use the string trimmer around the perimeter of the garden to cut back the vegetation including bermuda grass that quickly jumps up on top of the fabric and grows. Trimming the edge is such an easy fix.
Any unwanted plants that grow through the fabric should be pulled when young. If allowed to mature it is likely to damage the fabric when removing, that’s if you can remove it at this point.
Using a blower to remove all debris from the pathway fabric is essential. There’s foliage from stripping the flowers at harvest, the confetti plant debris from mowing beds when crops are done, and the soil and mulch that spills from beds during maintenance chores. When left on the fabric it can lead to major issues. Weeds will quickly grow on top of the fabric in the debris and it can also become a slimy, slick, stinky mess when it rains.
Landscape fabric requires regular maintenance to keep it as an asset in your garden—it does not fix all weed problems by itself. It is a tool.
The easy “pulling out” is all about timing.
One of my fears of no-till was what to do when a crop is done and how-to remove it to get ready for the next planting without tractor assistants. Keep in mind, I am coming off of years of high production with 144 beds that were 120 feet long. Not for the faint of heart nor to be tackled without a tractor or a large crew.
But this is a new day. With this manageable size research garden I am learning how to apply new techniques and am seeing the results. As it turns out, incorporating my succession planting plan into no-till can be surprisingly easy.
Some crops are easily pulled out by hand if done as soon as a crop is done and before the weeds grow. Often these beds can be replanted immediately if needed. If not planted immediately, cover with a silage tarp to prevent weeds from growing until the next planting. Warning: it only takes uncovered beds a few hours for weed seeds to start the germination process.
The beds with crops that are not easily pulled out because weeds have grown or hard to pull roots are mowed down with my push mulching mower. After mowing, I use the blower to get debris off the fabric, and then cover the bed with a silage tarp for 6 or so weeks to digest all the confetti plant debris before replanting.
This morning I mowed down a bed that was full of weeds that I allowed to get away from me. Then I covered with a tarp. Took me less than 30 minutes. It is a reality for all of us I think, that out of control weed situations happen. I am so grateful to have a fairly low labor way to resolve this problem and to do it in a way that can benefit my garden. All the vegetation debris under the tarp is being digested and those surface weed seeds are being extinguished. It will take about 6 weeks in the heat we are having now to make it ready for the next planting.
No-till sticking around
As I am learning these techniques and methods to implement in my garden and on my farm from Jonathan and Megan of Spring Forth Farm, my thinking is changing about no-till. By practicing no-till and revisiting their online course instructions—-I can see how and why this no-till thing is going to stick around for me, it is ultimately more productive and requires less inputs from me.
Jonathan & Megan’s course, The No-Till Micro-Scale Flower Farm has flipped my switch and opened my eyes. Their teachings can be applied to flower, vegetable, and herb gardening and farming. Learn more or purchase the online course here.
I built this research no-till garden with a shovel and it can be maintained by hand, along with a silage tarp, and some common lawn care equipment. It can be expanded and will grow your heart’s desire.
Join the no-till journey— learn from Jonathan and Megan. The tagline Suzanee chose for the course and the one I borrowed for this blog title is true and I’m living it: No Tractor? No Problem!
I’d love to hear about your experience!
Founder of The Gardener’s Workshop and Flower Farming School Online. Award-winning Author of Vegetables Love Flowers and Cool Flowers. Watch Lisa’s Story and view her blog Field & Garden. Connect with Lisa on Facebook and Instagram!