What is no till?
In traditional gardening, the soil is tilled regularly through the growing season. The rows in the garden change from year to year and bare soil is exposed to wind and rain.
Traditional gardening brings with it a lot of challenges that can be prevented with no till gardening. Bare soil will blow in the wind and be washed away by heavy rains. Weed seeds will germinate when they are exposed to moisture and light.
In no till gardening, we change the way we garden to work with the garden’s natural ecosystem to prevent these challenges from happening. We do this by utilizing the same rows from year to year, we stop tilling the soil and then cover the entire garden in mulch.
Check out our examples tab to see examples of basic set ups for no till gardens in both urban and rural areas, food and flowers, in ground or in raised beds!
Why no till?
We are perpetuating many of the problems we are fighting in our gardens. By stopping tilling and compacting our soils, we are allowing our soils to build up healthy levels of aggregates that can help to store water and nutrients for our plants. Through the use of mulch, we are improving our soil fertility and reducing wind and water soil erosion.
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Healthy soil, healthy garden ecosystem
While traditional gardening focuses only on the bit of plant that sits on top of the soil, no till gardening looks at the garden as an ecosystem. This ecosystem is made up of soil, microorganisms, insects, water, air, sunshine – they all have important roles to play to create a garden that works with nature rather than against it. In a garden that works with the ecosystem, there is no need for pesticides or artificial fertilizers as the health of the soil supports a living ecosystem that eliminates the need for them.
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No till is a very different way of thinking and it's absolutely normal to be hestitant to change the way we have gardened for generations.
It will take a bit of planning and a lot of physical work to get started but you will be reap the benefits very quickly of less time working your garden and more time enjoying your garden.
Click on the Articles tab in this section for detailed information on how to set it up!
Planting in a no till garden is a bit different than planting in a traditional garden. The mulch stays on the garden year round but it will prevent seed germination so the mulch gets moved for planting.
Click on the Articles tab in this section to learn how to plant your no till garden.
In a traditional garden, a gardener will work up their garden and lay out their rows before planting, spend their summer weeding, watering and then weeding and watering some more. If they travel, they will need someone to weed and water while they are away. In the fall, they will work it up before heading inside for winter.
In a no till garden, a gardener will move the mulch and seed their garden. They may spend a few minutes a week weeding and they will enjoy time at the lake or a summer vacation without the added worry of who will take care of the garden while they are away. Once harvest is complete, a no till gardener will top up the mulch and head inside for winter.
Click on the Articles tab in this section for detailed information on how to manage your no till garden.
Frequently Asked Questions
No till is weird compared to how we all learned to garden. It's understandable that a partner may not be convinced. Having the partner take a no till class with you may help but the best way to really learn no till is to start small with a corner of your garden. Within one season, there will be a visible difference in your garden which is generally all it takes to understand why no till works.
Annual weeds reproduce by producing seeds. Mulch prevents seed germination by blocking the sunlight from hitting the soil which triggers seed germination. If you mulch is thick enough, weed seeds in your soil will not germinate.
Perennial weeds reproduce by vegetative means. This means they will grow through mulch.
To prevent them from growing, add a thick, smothering layer of mulch (12") to prevent their growth. If possible, prepare your garden space, add smothering mulch and leave the space for a year to get the perennial weeds under control.