to save your aching back from double digging or
rototilling in the garden? Kevin Marini has a plan for
with the Placer-Nevada Master Gardeners, is a big
proponent of no till vegetable gardening.
it’s not as simple as just sticking a plant in
untouched earth, it’s fairly simple and doesn’t
involve backbreaking labor. Best of all, it’s a great
way to produce healthy soil, improve the environment and
grow an awesome, sustainable garden.
are some tips on no till gardening:
Research has shown that soil has a wealth of active
organisms and microorganisms that shouldn’t be
disturbed by aggressive digging.
To get started, prepare your beds in the fall by digging
up the bed lightly to allow water and nutrients to
permeate the ground, then put down a layer of newspapers
or cardboard. Next, create an in-bed compost pile,
adding equal amounts of browns and greens, up to 24
inches deep, and mixing them together. Cover the bed
with straw or something that will allow water and air to
move through the barrier, yet keep weed seeds from
blowing in. Let the beds sit, watering when necessary,
throughout the fall and winter. In the spring, pull back
the covering and put in your plants.
The next fall, grow a cover crop in the bed and practice
the chop-and-drop method, cutting the plants at ground
level and dropping the cut material in the bed to
decompose and feed the earth. Leave the roots in the
ground—they’ll decompose, too. You’ll be ready to
plant again in the spring.
To save yourself even more work, grow a cover crop that
will be killed by colder temperatures. Instead of having
to chop and drop, nature will do the work for you.
till gardening is not fast gardening, Marini says. You
need to be patient, allowing the material to decompose
and feed the soil.
The first advantage, Marini says, is that you’re
saving your back. Tilling the soil, either with a spade
or a rototiller is exhausting.
It’s important to maintain the soil ecology and the
food web. Organisms and microbes live in all layers of
the soil, and they don’t like to be moved around.
Letting them remain undisturbed so they can what they
are intended to do, produces the most healthy soil.
No till soils also have a greater ability to hold water
If you have a perennial weed problem, you’ll need to
tackle the weeds before starting a no till bed.
Moles, voles and gophers also appreciate the no till
garden because it will have lots of food for them.
Again, before starting, taking care of pest issues.
The bed will need watering during the winter in order
for the compost to break down and the microorganisms to
thrive. If we have a dry winter, you’ll need to give
the beds supplemental water.
No till beds, because they are protected by layers of
mulch and compost, can take a bit longer to warm up in
If you use cardboard as the base for your bed, you may
attract termites, recent studies are showing. The
solution is to use newspaper.