Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No Work Gardens

I browse a number of various garden forums and am amazed at the number of wanna-be gardeners/farmers who want no-work gardens. They want to simply cast seeds about, then go back later to reap bountiful food. They advocate no till, meaning zero till. No pulling weeds. No loosening the soil. No soil conditioners or fertilizer. Zero prep. They don't expect to have to do anything else except perhaps water the garden if it hasn't rained for several weeks. Some even want to avoid having to do that. 

I've read several posts where these optimistic types say that they have actually tried this, and a month or two later are bitterly disappointed that their garden didn't thrive. They post pitiful photos of dead or severely stunted plants, or weedy dirt with no veggie plants growing there at all. They ask for advice and ask why they failed. But if someone suggests tilling the soil, they are adamantly against it. 

Then on the other side, I read posts by the same school of people who are claiming that this system works. Having been at serious gardening for 10 years now, I simply cannot believe them that this could possibly work. Come on now, if veggies grew that easy they would be like weeds, filling up vacant lots, growing on the roadsides, coming up in the cracks in the pavement, popping up in lawns and flower beds. It simply just doesn't happen. 

I receive a number of emails telling me to stop rototilling, that I am damaging my soil. I don't think that these people have ever had a real garden, at least not one that they need to rely upon to produce their own food. If they did, they would know that zero tilling doesn't work for vegetables. Most vegetables are annuals and benefit with loosened soil. They do poorly, if at all, in compact weedy soils. 

I've never tried growing a veggie garden anarchy style, with veggies all mixed up just growing wherever the seeds happened to land. I think it might work to some degree if the soil had been tilled or dug, weeds removed, and some form of fertilizer incorporated, all prior to casting the seeds. A lot of the seeds may not germinate successfully. But some might do okay, until the weeds also germinated, that is. How much edible food could come out of such a garden is questionable, especially if it is not watered. But how would you harvest things as they were ready without stepping on others still growing? How would the low plants grow without being shaded out by the larger ones? Then there are the sweet potatoes and potatoes to consider. You can't just simply cast those about and then walk away. 

No, I don't think a no work, anarchy style garden could produce food enough to live on. Not in the real world, to be sure. 

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