The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Top-dressing compost in a no-till system

Triangle hoeI'm still making basic beginner mistakes as I figure out the best ways to work with a no-till system.  Since I don't want to disturb the soil, I've been tossing my soil amendments on top of the ground and counting on rain and worms to bring the nutrients down into the root zone.  But my first lettuce bed proved that this method isn't going to work during a droughty February.  Every few days, I'd peek under my quick hoop and look for sprouts, and nothing ever seemed to happen.  Finally, I realized that the composted manure had dried out on top, so the tiny lettuce seeds I'd sprinkled on the surface weren't going to sprout.  After two bouts of heavy hand-watering, lettuce roots finally appeared.

To prevent this problem in other beds I plan to direct-seed this spring, I'm gently working the manure into the top inch of the soil.  This triangular hoe that Mark's mom gave us over the summer turns out to be perfect for surface incorporation without disturbing the lower soil profiles.

Most of the garden, though, can simply be topdressed, mulched, and then ignored until it's time to plant.  Transplanted broccoli seedlings and potato tubers won't have any trouble growing in a layer of manure over soil, and I suspect our healthy earthworm population will work the manure into the soil before it's time to plant summer crops.

Our chicken waterer gives your flock something to do during long winter days in the coop.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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