What is No-till Gardening?
No-till gardening or farming is just that: Gardening or farming without tilling the soil. Traditionally, farmers would till their crop soil in order to remove weeds; aerate the soil, allowing more nutrients to rise to crop root level to be absorbed; and to allow room to put manure or compost in the ground to further enhance growth.
While tilling soil is effective at removing weeds and promoting crop growth, areas with high erosion rates or thin soil suffer greatly. When the soil is dug up, the aeration that occurs increases the decomposition rate of organic matter in the soil, proving detrimental after many years of repeated tilling. This process also disrupts and imbalances symbiotic and mutualist relationships of the organisms that live in the soil, as well as the ecosystem’s food web. No-till farming allows nature to take over, with little effort or interaction from humans.
How is it Done?
One popular method of no-till farming is to cover the area in 2-6 inches of organic materials — compost, manure, straw etc. — used as mulch and allowed to naturally break down. The macro- and microorganisms already in the soil will break down this material and add it to the top layer of the soil, creating very fertile farming land. By farming with this method, natural processes are enhanced rather than harmed, less work is required, and the likelihood of plants being harmed by pests or disease is greatly reduced due to the natural buildup of the ecosystem.
Another popular method for no-till farming is to dampen cardboard or paper (typically newspaper) and cover the surface area with several layers of this, gradually adding compost, manure, etc. as time passes. This is very similar to the previous method, but instead of first mulching the organic material, it is added directly and immediately to the soil.
Sum it All Up
Many people use no-till farming where the soil is thin or erosion is common to retain as much soil fertility as possible. This method of farming also aids the ecosystem in natural protection against diseases and pests, as well as enhancing the food web of the organisms within the soil. If one chooses to utilize these techniques, their environmental impact can be further dropped and the food grown will be more nutritious and flavorful.