Remember in Shakespeare’s Hamlet the famous words, “To be or not to be; that is the question.” Those words reminded me of my wavering decision whether to follow the practice of no tilling or tilling in my organic garden. I have a friend who has not tilled in years and his organic garden looks like a bed of straw but he grows an enormous amount of healthy-looking vegetables and swears by no till, especially how great it is for the soil and therefore the nutrient content of his vegetables. Up the road from our house is an Asian couple who also produce a lot of vegetables for market; it is their only source of income. They till. Rows and rows on several acres. They till between rows and use pesticides for insect control.
For several years of organic gardening, I have tilled my beds only with a pick axe and small hand rake. I just do a little at a time, about 350 square feet of ground in the fall and again in the spring. The ground stays pretty soft in these beds as I plant a cover crop in the fall and till under in the spring. I add some home-made compost and sometimes peat moss to help the clay soil we have. To make garden work a little easier on Grannie as well as to promote healthy garden soil I’ve decided to try the no till method! So this just might be my last year to till or to “fluff up” the soil as I like to say.
Mother Earth News has a very good article about the practice of no till and its benefits. Read it here