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Re: tractor, etc

  • Subject: Re: [cg] tractor, etc
  • From: Steve Diver steved@ncat.org
  • Date: Fri, 03 Feb 2006 12:22:18 -0600

Hi Ken -

Fyi, Dripping Springs in Huntsville, AR, tried no-till beds
for about five years, but found that soil compaction was
increasing and making it difficult to transplant and so forth.

They purchased a tractor and spading machine, and
after they'd seen the results they said they would
have gotten started with full-scale market farming
equipment at the outset, twenty years ago. It makes
land preparation so much faster and efficient during
short windows of time in the wet springtime, it is
suitable to soil incorporation of cover crops, and
you can improve soil organic matter through
proper tillage and humus management.

So they no longer employ no-till beds as Mark Cain
had written about several years ago. But they still employ
a full-scale organic mulching strategy, using over 1,600
bales of straw mulch (or sometimes wheat hay) on
three acres of beds, raising flowers and veggies.
Interestingly, the farm neighbor who sold his tractor
and spader combination with Dripping Springs went
the other direction. Patrice Gros moved into town
at Eureka Springs, AR, and started an intensive market
garden using no-till beds.
So Dripping Springs went from tillage with walking
roto-tillage and hand tools, to no-till, then back to
tillage with tractor-equipment.
Patou's Garden went from tillage to no-till, especially
integrated with top mulch.
It probably says that farmers and gardens use
appropriate methods for appropriate situations.
And secondly that methods change and morph
thru emerging growing seasons as tools and techniques
and concepts unfold.

No-till has worked well for warm-season transplant
crops (nightshades and curcurbits) and for large-seeded
direct drilled crops (corn and beans), but many of the
small-seeded direct drilled crops and delicate transplants
(carrots, parsnips, beets, cole crops, specialty greens) are
better suited to a clean seedbed, or more quickly
transplanted into loose soil.

One market farmer that you may wish to know
about is Doug Walton in Muskogee, OK. For
several years he employed no-till beds, integrated
with cool-season and warm-season cover crops
that were chopped down by a string trimmer
(weed eater) with a plastic flair head attachment. This procedure was followed by hand raking the
green mulch onto beds, followed by hand transplanting. Doug is now working full-time on behalf of farmers
markets and sustainable agriculture, so his market
garden is on hold.

Since many gardeners coming into community
gardens are beginners, regular soil preparation
is common. Fortunately, I'm confident that modern
organic gardening techniques can maintain and build
soil health in its many aspects using proper tillage
and humus management. No-till might be offered as
a class to cg gardeners, so people can explore this
method and add it to their toolbox, as a mulch-based

Last week I shared slides and notes at the
TOFGA conference in Texas on the mechanical
roller-crimper method of no-till production,
emphasizing the weed suppressive cover crop
mulch that results, and I expect that several organic
vegetable farmers will be looking into this no-till
method quite seriously in your home state.

Steve Diver
Fayetteville, AR

P.S. cross-posted to market-farming, fyi

Minifarms@aol.com wrote:


You do not need to till, plow, etc.  I have seen a video in which the
Agriculture Extension service agent said, "the worst thing that can happen to
is the use of a roto-tiller."

200,000,000 acres worldwide is in no-till.  Over 50% of the small  farms in
Argentina are no-till.  It works.

Mechanized:  1985-2000, Dr. Morrison, TX research  station, proved that
permanent beds, with permanent tracks,  increase yields 15%.  In 2002, A D
[806-866-5667] decided  to go no-till and purchased a no-till planter.  He
planted the cotton, harvested the  cotton, planted wheat, knocked down the
and he was ready to plant  again.  His cost went to the  basement.  Buster
Adair [806-755-2532] has been  no-till [cotton] for  twenty years.  Steve
[cedarmeadowfarm.com] has been  no-till [vegetables,  corn] for 30  years [I
have seen this operation].  A farmer can not be no-till without a no-till
planter and/or no-till  drill.  !It  works!
Mini-farms:  Fukaoka Farm, Japan, has been no-till [rice,  small grains,
vegetables] for 70  years.  Dripping Springs  Gardens, AR, has been no-till
[vegetables,  flowers]  for 8 years.  An Indian farmer has been no-till
for 5  years.  A Malawi  farmer has been no-till [vegetables] on  permanent
beds for 25 years [I visited his farm].  A Honduras farmer  has been no-till
[vegetables  & fruit] on  permanent beds on the contour (730  slope] for 11
years [I visited this farm].  Ruth  Stout [USA] had a  no-till garden for 30
years and 7,000 people visited her garden.  !It works!
Ken  Hargesheimer

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