Cultivating Questions Concerning the Bioextensive Market Garden
by Anne and Eric Nordell of Trout Run, PA
Opening up a planting furrow on the top of the cover cropped ridges, October 15, 2001, using a coulter and narrow tooth mounted on the riding cultivator.
Field Day participants no-till planting garlic into the cover crop of oats and peas growing on the ridges. (NEON is organizing a field day here this fall. See the Classified Ads for more details.)
Mulching the valleys with wheat straw the following spring in order to preserve as much moisture as possible.
No-till garlic on June 10, 2003, before hand weeding a smattering of winter weeds. The crop seemed to thrive despite the weather extremes: an unusually cold and wet May/early June followed by hot, dry conditions for the rest of the summer. We attributed the crop’s resiliency to the well drained and aerated growing conditions on the no-till ridgetops and the large reserve of moisture stored under the mulch in the valleys.
The no-till ridges also provided us with a mechanical advantage at harvest time. Instead of hand digging the crop in the now bone-dry soil, we lifted the garlic with the walk-behind potato plow just like plowing out a hill of potatoes. Conveniently enough, concentrating the mulch in the valleys prevented it from interfering with mechanically harvesting the crop.
When NEON researcher Steve Vanek dug samples to check the yield and nutrient content of the crop, he took this photo to document the roots of the garlic penetrating deeply into the untilled soil.
One reason the no-till garlic may have been able to produce such a massive root system was due to the undisturbed soil being riddled with earthworm holes. Not wanting to destroy the beautiful soil structure created by the earthworms, we prepared the harvested garlic patch for planting a cover crop by fencing in…
…our small flocks of laying hens to shred-and-spread the mulch of wheat straw in the no-till pathways. The birds also lightly tilled all this moisture conserving organic matter into the surface of the soil so a pass or two with the springtooth harrow was all that was necessary before seeding the winter cover of rye. In the next issue, we hope to show how chicken-tillage can be used to reduce the buildup of slugs in a high residue cropping system.