[permaculture] Organic no-till for dry-land farming?

Dieter Brand diebrand at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 3 04:32:03 EDT 2007

  I agree about the importance of increasing soil organic matter, and I think 
  the best way of achieving this is by using cover crops and mulching in a
  no-till system.
  I don’t agree about raised beds, at least not in the way these where first
  conceived in the temperate regions of central and northern Europe, where 
  dark deep soil will take about any abuse without buckling. I wouldn’t use 
  raised beds in a hot climate where humus in the fragile top soil is depleted 
  much more rapidly due to the high temperatures.
  The problem with raised beds is: you disrupt the organic web in the soil
  and risk inverting aerobic and anaerobic soil layers when you first set 
  them up, then you burry woody and green plant residues in the soil where 
  they cannot decompose by an aerobic process, as in nature, but risk
  producing substances that can even be toxic to roots, finally you disrupt 
  the capillary channels that supply water from the subsoil to replenish the
  water film of particles in the topsoil, which means that the upper soil crust
  of your raised bed will dry out rapidly and needs constant watering.
  Finally, raised beds dry out easily because they have more exposed
  surface area, it is also difficult to protect the vertical or sloping sides 
  with either vegetation of mulch.
  People around here build artificial lakes with a bulldozer. I have so far
  resisted this because where a bulldozer has ripped open the soil 
  nothing will grow for another 10 years. Instead I have started collected
  stones, wooden logs, etc. to build a multitude of little barriers across
  the water lines and around the growing areas. An undisturbed soil
  is the best water storage means.
  If I say no-till, I also mean no-dig. Anyway, this is fairly easy to achieve
  in an irrigated area by mulching and cover cropping.
  Since I started no-till 3 years ago I have been able to reduce irrigation 
  by about 80 %. Last August, I was down to about 1/2 litre per square
  meter a day. Among all the water saving means, no-till with mulch
  and/or cover crops is the most effective.
  I’m not particularly keen on Fado, at least not before my first bottle
  of red wine, just kidding, these are only distant memories of my ill
  spent youth, now I hardly drink more than a glass for dinner.
  Dieter Brand
"Lawrence F. London, Jr." <lfl at intrex.net> wrote:
    Hello Dieter:

I have a similar problem with dry soil and increasingly more frequest
periods of drought. Adding organic matter to my soil, making tall raised beds
with the rows between filled with compost and mulch will go a long way
toward conserving moisture and making it possible to grow crops.
If you don't want to plow then hand dig your beds. Can you build ponds or other water catchments
to contain rainfall during the wet months for use during the summer by pumping them out onto the gardens?
Bellota tools in the Basque region in Spain and another, similar (forged hand tools) tool company in Portugal
make excellent gardening hand tools, perfect for your gardening tasks.

Do you like Fado? Maritza, Amalia Rodriguez? Flamenco?



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