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

Steve Diver steved at ncat.org
Fri Feb 2 18:45:47 EST 2007

I'm using the broadfork from Johnny's Selected Seeds
on twelve biointensive beds measuring 5' x 20' each.

The "clods" I refer to are more like soil chunks. The
soil has been improved through cover cropping,
composting, mulching, and broadforking for several years
and each year the beds get easier to work through
improved soil tilth.

The broadfork lifts up huge chunks of soil from a depth.
You can work-up soil two feet wide with each forking.

Mainly I wrote about the broadfork because it is a form
of deep tillage and it doesn't seem right to associate the
broadfork with no-tillage.

I also have some beds that I manage as no-till and they
are deep mulched with no digging or forking. 

By the way, I have the wooden handled broadfork from
Johnny's, yet I convinced my brother to get the steel
handled broadfork from Lee Valley Garden Tools.

I've used them both and much prefer the wooden handled
model from Johnny's.  The tines are slightly narrower and
dig into the soil with much greater ease. In addittion, the
wooden tool is lighter in weight, which makes a big difference
after a few hours working in the field.

In fact, after deep forking there is a way to get on your knees
and "sift" through the soil by rocking the broadfork back
and forth, thus breaking up the soil chunks.  It's easier to
manage the lighter fork with this sifting method.  

When you follow the broadfork with a Warren hoe
and then a garden rake, the soil has been aerated and
loosened for seeding or transplanting, but it hasn't been
pulverized to smithereens.   There are many soil
aggregates and habitats left for fungi, worms, and
soil creatures.

Pat Herbert was at the Acres USA conference in December.
He raises hundreds of acres of organic vegetables near
Hollister, CA.  He attended the Luebke compost seminars
in the mid-1990s and started making humifed compost; i.e.,
clay-amended and microbially-inoculated compost.  In the
past ten years, he has raised the percent SOM on his soil
test by 4% using humified compost, cover cropping, and
and the "right kind of tillage."

Steve Diver

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