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

Tradingpost tradingpost at lobo.net
Tue Jan 30 12:03:42 EST 2007


Let's take a closer look at what Coleman wrote.  On p.44 he wrote "You CAN
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. 

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.

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. 


paul tradingpost at lobo.net

*********** REPLY SEPARATOR  ***********

On 1/30/2007 at 11:00 AM road's end farm wrote:

>On Jan 29, 2007, at 11:28 AM, Tradingpost wrote:
>>
>>  there's nothing mysterious about no-till
>> annual organics. Evidently the NOFA-NY crowd didn't include Eliot 
>> Coleman
>> from Maine, who's been doing it for years, and quite successfully as 
>> in my
>> original post from his book.
>
>No, I don't think Eliot Coleman was physically present at the meeting. 
>I think that all or most of us have read him, however. Although Four 
>Season Harvest is primarily and explicitly aimed at the home gardener, 
>there's a great deal in there that translates well to the smaller scale 
>market gardener, and some to larger scale operations; and of course he 
>has also written specifically for the market grower.
>
>However, he isn't describing what I think of as a no-till system. I've 
>rechecked your reference from your original post (to pp. 38-40 of Four 
>Season Harvest) in my copy. On, p. 40, he writes that the beds are 
>aerated once a year with a broadfork, "doing by hand what large scale 
>organic farms do with a winged chisel plow". Page 40 also says "We 
>spread compost on the surface and mix it in shallowly".  On p. 44 he 
>says "incorporate the green matter residues by turning over the soil 
>shallowly with a spade" or "chop the surface clean with a hoe to 
>prevent regrowth, rake the bed smooth". He does also discuss, as an 
>alternative, planting into a mowed green manure that is left in place 
>in the field. It's my actual experience, as well as that of others, 
>that this will cause a flush of enthusiastic weeds a couple of weeks 
>later. Coleman doesn't discuss this effect; but what he does about it 
>is quite clear.  On pp. 62-64 he discusses, at some length, the 
>importance of controlling weeds in his system through frequent shallow 
>hoeing.
>
>To translate this to a farm scale: chisel plow once a year; incorporate 
>compost and/or green manure crops shallowly (possibly with a spader); 
>control weeds as they germinate with shallow cultivation (presumably, 
>according to crop, growth stage of crop, and soil type, with anything 
>from a wiggle hoe to basket weeders; there are lots of options.)
>
>That's not what I meant by a no-till system. If what you meant was just 
>not using a moldboard plow or similar implements, yes, there are lots 
>of people farming organically with little or no use of actual plowing.
>
>Are you yourself using an entirely no-till organic farm-scale system? 
>If so, could you describe it for us?
>
>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; try a good swan hoe or diamond hoe. (My favorite, the Doug 
>Black hoe, doesn't seem to be available anywhere.)
>
>-- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
>Fresh-market organic produce, small scale
>
>
>
>On Jan 29, 2007, at 11:28 AM, Tradingpost wrote:
>
><excerpt>
>
> there's nothing mysterious about no-till
>
>annual organics. Evidently the NOFA-NY crowd didn't include Eliot
>Coleman
>
>from Maine, who's been doing it for years, and quite successfully as
>in my
>
>original post from his book. 
>
></excerpt>
>






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