[Market-farming] Coleman: "We no longer dig the garden."

Steve Diver steved at ncat.org
Sun Feb 4 11:22:26 EST 2007

Paul -

Referring to the broadfork as "modified no-till" is more
than a stretch, it is an incorrect description of no-till.

The broadfork digs down *deep* into the soil and lifts
up a huge soil chunk almost two feet wide.  This has
to be further harrowed to prepare a seedbed.  This is a
major form of beneficial soil tillage.

"Beneficial" soil tillage, the "right kind" of soil tillage,
and "appropriate" soil tillage combined with humus
management has been the backbone of sustainable
and organic farming systems for thousands of years.

The spading machine is a major form of soil tillage,
but it improves soil humus though its beneficial tillage
action.   A chisel plow and harrow combination
improves soil humus.  A broadfork and harrow
combination improves soil humus.  

Here is an example of modified no-till.  The USDA-ARS
research station in Beltsville, MD, has published a series
of journals articles and publications on no-till tomatoes
raised with a hairy vetch cover crop mulch.   Dr. Abdul-Baki
and others have pioneered this approach.   But when I
visited the plots one fall in the late 1990s, the front side of
the no-till planting system became more apparent.   The
vegetable field had been thoroughly tilled, followed by
bed formation and seedbed prepration.  This enabled a
Brillion seeder to sow hairy vetch seed and achieve
excellent cover crop stand establishment.  Indeed, the
thick cover crop mulch that is achieved the followed
spring begins with excellent "stand establishment" in
the preceeding fall.  In addition, this Beltsville no-till
plots relied on herbicide applications to knock back
emerging weeds that grow thru the mulch during the
growing season, and/or to knock back hairy vetch
that may re-sprout.


Sustainable Production of Fresh-Market Tomatoes

Be that as it may, I'm sure you'll enjoy the broadfork.
It's a valueable tool for raised bed, biointensive style
home gardening.   It is a complete alternative to double
digging and it is a complete alternative to a fossil-fuel
powered roto-tiller, since you can dig as many
100-square foot raised beds as your family needs.  

Steve Diver

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