[Market-farming] Coleman: "We no longer dig the garden." / No-till in the organic mainstream

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Fri Feb 2 11:12:14 EST 2007

On Jan 30, 2007, at 12:03 PM, Tradingpost wrote:

> Let's take a closer look at what Coleman wrote.  On p.44 he wrote "You 
> incorporate the green matter residues by turning over the soil 
> shallowly
> with a spade". He did not instruct us to do that, nor does he. You 
> point
> out that page 40 says "We spread compost on the surface and mix it in
> shallowly". You missed the sentence right before that, "We no longer 
> dig
> the garden." Further, the page before, p.39, he writes "We haven't 
> always
> acted this wisely. In springs long past, we dug and spaded with a
> vengeance."  I hope that clears up any misreading of Coleman. I'm sure 
> you
> understand that shallow weed hoeing (or using the broadfork) is not
> tillage. Coleman is clearly no-till and it works.

No, I don't understand that cultivation to control weeds is not 
tillage. This is a relatively new field and the terminology seems to be 
a little unsettled, but a strict no-till system (which is what I 
specified that I meant) not only doesn't invert the soil, it also 
doesn't disturb the soil surface, except for the minimum opening 
required to insert the seeds or plants of the desired crop. The terms 
reduced tillage, minimum tillage, etc. can be used for systems that do 
include some soil disturbance. Quite a lot of soil biological activity 
is in that top inch or two of the soil which is disrupted by 

> You state
>> By the way -- as with any farm or garden system, not everything that
>> works for Coleman will work for everyone else. The Coleman collineal
>> hoe, for instance, is very likely great if you have light sandy soil
>> without rocks.  I have one hanging in the barn; the very light blade 
>> lasted something
>> like ten minutes before bending uselessly out of shape. There are 
>> sturdier hoes that
>> are used in the same or similar fashion.
> Yet Coleman's using that hoe, in an area of rocky soil, harsh winters, 
> and
> he's a long time, highly successful market grower describing methods 
> that
> work for market growers. And as he points out, there are now (at least)
> eight other market growers in Maine following  his lead.

Quoting Coleman again, from "Four Season Harvest". page 31: "our soil 
in Maine . . .was very sandy"; from page 32 "stones . . . have been 
removed over time". The winters have nothing to do with the function of 
the hoe.

I'm probably not going to keep posting on this issue. You've got your 
own definition of no-till, and your own reading of Coleman. I don't 
know why you're so insistent that every detail of what works for 
Coleman must work for every other farmer, everywhere; but I'm not going 
to keep arguing about this. However, I am going to keep reporting my 
own actual experience on this list; as well as sometimes the experience 
of others who I know well. Other growers reading the list will of 
course come to their own individual conclusions as to what techniques 
to try and as to what works for them; and I hope will also continue to 
post their own results.

-- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
Fresh-market organic produce, small scale
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