No-till Farming

No-till Farming

One of the first decisions we made about the growing methods we would use at Lost Pond Farm involved how much plowing or rototilling to employ.

Past experience had sold us on permanent beds with turf aisles between. And past experience reminded us how hard breaking sod and heavy clay soil is with a rototiller. Why not skip the tilling and lay our garden beds using a method we'd read about? This no-till or "lasagna garden" method involves putting down newspaper or brown cardboard to smother the existing plant growth, then layering soil amendments such as compost and rock powders and topping with a layer of straw to protect the new bed from sun, wind and rain.

 

Garden starts may be planted directly into these no-till beds, and over time, soil life and the elements will incorporate the amendments into an improved layer of topsoil.

We've used this no-till method on all our beds here at Lost Pond Farm, and after six years we're committed to never using plow or rototiller. In addition to being easier on us, no-till is easier on soil life and avoids the erosion and damage to soil texture that over-tilling can cause. Our only cultivating, other than hand-digging crops such as garlic and sweet potatoes, is an annual deep aeration with a broadfork.

Although we currently choose not to undergo organic certification, we remain committed to growing without use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. We believe that serious pest and disease problems are, at root, signs of more serious issues such as soil fertility, crop diversity, and beneficial insect habitats. Even the biological sprays and soluble fertilizers allowed organic growers are suspect because they act superficially.

 

We also believe in low tech, low input methods wherever appropriate, including making our own potting mix, using salvaged plastic posts and flats (we've never bought new) and relying on passive solar means to heat our greenhouse.

One last point: because we enjoy what we do, we want to do it ourselves. We have no ambition to spend our days overseeing the work of others. We may one day decide we've honed our system to the point that it's worth teaching to interns, but until then our goal is to do no more than we can do well, the two of us.

Row In the Garden