In the two months since the last post we have been moving slowly forward. We are still sharecropping across the street, though with some modifications. The family, while grieving for their mother, has made it clear that they want us to continue gardening in their back yard. There have been some changes as a grandson has moved into an RV trailer in the yard. There are more dogs now at the house and in fairness to them and the family we have given up some marginal beds. The beds were always a struggle as it was, so this will be helpful to them and less work for us.
We have planted potatoes and tomatoes in the last week. The weather has been warm and there is little chance more rain or cold will come soon. We would like the rain though. These are the first beds we have planted across the street using the our version of the no-till method. The beds were not dug in with compost as in the past. A layer of the chicken bedding was layered across the bed. This is from the chicken yard and is straw, green waste and manure that has been building over the winter. Instead of raking the bedding out and putting it in the compost pile, we added more hay or straw to the mix and let the chickens scratch and eat and distribute the material evenly. We've built up 4-6 inches of this material. We dig it out in layers and spread it over the beds, not disturbing the planting bed. We then dig a small hole in the beds and plant the potato or tomato disturbing the bed as little as possible. After the planting is finished, straw is spread over the bed as a top dressing. Cages are placed around the tomato plants. Next year or season the same protocol will be followed and eventually the bed will have the manure filled compost worked into the soil by worms and other critters.
This is our first time no-tilling with produce, though we started no-tilling around our fruit trees last year. We did a variation with our corn experiment last summer, but it was just the straw to help retain water and keep down weeds. The soil around the trees and under the wood chip mulch is soft and moist and full of worms.
Another aspect of the no-till is our approach to weeds. We are not worrying about them as much. If you look to nature, all ground eventually is covered with vegetation or duff. Nature strives to grow something. Weeds are the first things to grow many times. We are trying to grow something, crops, and are using duff in the form of straw or wood chips to recreate this version of nature.