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RE: to plow or not... NOT

The following comments are primarily based on what I have learned via
Ecology Action's 30 years of research. See www.growbiointensive.org

Mechanical plowing of any sort disrupts soil structure, kills micro
organisms, creates hard pan by impact and machine vibration, adds way too
much oxygen to soil, and if you're keyed in to true sustainability, it burns
polluting fossil fuel.

Machinery created a myth that you get more done faster, but why is speed a
criterion for success? It takes 500 to 2000 years to create 1" (yes, one
inch) of topsoil, yet mechanized agriculture is losing 6 - 12" per year
(sound sustainable to you?). Moreover, if "speed" is causing harm to the
life in soil (on which our lives depend), then it actually retards "success"
by setting back the health of the soil, sometimes dramatically.

Done properly with very subtle effort-saving motions, double digging is
gentle on both the digger and the soil. Many people who have tried double
digging did it without being aware of these techniques, and are hastey to
write it off as "hard work." When you think about it, we never really learn
how to dig, no one shows us how to do it slowly or gently. We attack soil
with all our might and complain about a sore back at the end of the day.

Having learned double digging from John Jeavon's video, "Dig It!" and had
one-on-one instruction from him twice, and having worked with rototillers
and tractors on a so-called "sustainable" farm, I can confidently assert
that double digging done properly is simple, easy, and disturbs the soil
least of any cultivating method.

Other notes:

Adding heaps of compost to soil does not equal instant fertile garden. It
can be too much of a good thing, and throw of the microbial balance in the
soil, as well as add too much nutrients, depending on the composition of the
soil and the compost. Ecology Action has researched that a sustainable
amount of compost to add per year is 12 - 5 gallon buckets per 100 square
feet, per year, preferably as one dose of 6 buckets in spring, 6 buckets in
fall, applied the same day you do transplanting. Also, it should only be
worked in to the top 3" of the soil, where it will have the most benefit.

Tilling in "green manures" results in a net loss of organic matter in the
soil, due all the effort needed to break it down. Cover crops are best
harvested and composted: "leafy" covers should be added green, where as
"stemmy" covers should be dried to increase the amount of lignin (which
leads to carbon, which is what soil really needs to be fertile in the first

Slow is fast. Again, it takes nature up to 2000 years to create one inch of
topsoil. So, relax, take your time, allow your garden soil to grow at its
own pace... don't allow eagerness to have a garden become tunnel vision on
how you are treating your soil.

Contact Ecology Action www.growbiointensive.org if you care to explore this
further, and learn the easy way to double dig. Or contact me and I may be
able to connet you with a trained person in your area.

Happy gardening,

> -----Original Message-----
> From: community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
> [mailto:community_garden-admin@mallorn.com]On Behalf Of Patricia Lawson
> Sent: Thursday, August 03, 2000 3:14 AM
> To: community_garden@mallorn.com
> Subject: [cg] to plow or not
> To Whom It May Concern--
> I am not currently a member of the American Community Garden Association
> but plan to become one.  We have a small community garden in the inner
> city of Kansas City, Kansas.  It is located on a lot, which was formerly
> the site of a house.  The soil was very poor and rubble-filled when we
> began.  We cleared as much as we could--to perhaps a depth of 12-18
> inches--and tilled in several loads of compost.  My question is what
> would be the best way to improve the soil with a bit of grant money we
> have.  Should we continue to add compost to the top and till it in or
> would it be better to hire someone to plow it and plow in compost at a
> deeper level.  I'm not sure how feasible this would be or if a deeper
> plowing would even be that good.  But I've read that tilling can harm
> the soil.  (We try not to overdo it).  Please let me know your thoughts
> on this.  We're thinking of plowing this fall.  Thanks, Pat Lawson,
> Kansas City, Kansas
> _______________________________________________
> community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com
> https://secure.mallorn.com/mailman/listinfo/community_garden

community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com

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