Author Topic: How to "till" and be no-till  (Read 4485 times)

Offline AngusBangus

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How to "till" and be no-till
« on: March 22, 2012, 06:49:23 PM »
I have winter rye planted over two separate beds. The rye is tall, bright green, nitrogen rich, and ready to start giving it back up to my summer garden.

In one of the beds, I am about to create a 2-3ft raised hugulkultur bed.  I will be digging out the soil in which it's planted to lay down the wood. I will also be filling the bed with topsoil/planting mix. The existing soil will be thrown into the beds as well. This one is easy, but if anyone has advice on where in the bed I should put back the existing soil I'd appreciate the advice.

In the other bed, it is going to remain at ground level (with a little mulch on top). I want to get the rye into the ground but I don't want to tear up the bed unless I have to. How to you get the rye or other cover crop into the ground so it can do what it was intended to do?

Looking forward to the help I know you guys can provide.

Dillon

Offline Rockhill

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2012, 07:20:41 PM »
Chop and drop, then add mulch or compost over the top of it. Sounds like your on the right track ;)

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2012, 02:19:17 PM »
Rock is right. Use the rye as a sub-layer of mulch.  Cover it lightly with something a bit drier, and let the worms carry it into the soil for you. The nitrogen stored in the rye isn't directly usable by the plant yet. It's stored in molecules to large for the roots to uptake. The worms grind it up, and bacteria living in worms break it down.  Bacteria in the soil break it down further, and fungi accumulate it in the soil and in some cases aid the plant in absorbing it.

It a long process, but you don't need to micro-manage it. It will happen all by it's self. Concern yourself with feeding the worms and the rest will follow naturally. The key here is patience.  The soil will build its' self over time.  Just keep feeding it and it will improve, and the rate at which it improves will increase.

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2012, 10:45:49 AM »
Thanks to both of you.

I dropped the rye and a few inches of soil on top of all the wood and old leaves at the bottom of the raised bed. I figured it would take a bit to compost. I did exactly as suggested in my bed that is at ground level. We'll see how it turns out.

I'll post some updated pictures on my blog in a week or so once the seeds in the ground-level bed start to sprout.

Offline Rockhill

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2012, 07:18:38 PM »
Good job man ;) Post some pics here too. We love to see some action :)

Offline Bigredmt

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2012, 08:37:34 PM »
Just some words to throw out, but you cant underestimate the root matter that those grasses put out. In my mind growing them purely for root matter would still be worth the effort.

Hope you have good results, what are you intending on planting?

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2012, 01:08:21 PM »
Just some words to throw out, but you cant underestimate the root matter that those grasses put out. In my mind growing them purely for root matter would still be worth the effort.
I was utterly amazed at the quality of the soil after only a few months of this rye grass growth. This soil was packed and sandy last fall, having been underneath a trampoline for 5 years, some of the more hardy weeds and bushy "first-in" trees growing where I couldn't get my weedeater, and washed almost barren by the runoff (except the pesky plants just mentioned). Before the rye, it tilled like I was working a real stubborn mule. After, I was able to work it with hand tools easily.
 
what are you intending on planting?
I planted the following (# represents square feet):
1 - Cayenne
1 - Habanero
4 - Bell Peppers
3 - Mesclun mix
3 - Romaine
3 - Bib lettuce
3 - Cabbage
3 - Carrots
3 - Beets
2 - Chard
3 - Spinach
2 - Snow Peas
2 - Purplehull Peas
4 - Tomatoes (big boy, better boy, 2 other varieties)
3 - Brussel Sprouts
4 - Zucchini
4 - Oregano
4 - Basil (Sweet, Round Midnight - Purple, Greek, Boxwood)
1 - Cilantro
2 - Thyme
1 - Sage (transplanted from another bed and is currently LOVING it)
3 - Marigold (can't remember the specific variety... seeds are at home)
1 - Nastutium
2 - Chamomile
2 - Echinacea (purple)
3 - Open for something else I'll start later (broccoli, some other brassica, asparagus)

My wife has COMPLETELY bought in to the idea of growing a larger portion of our food and it was quite nostalgic planting the peas. My grandfather, brother, and I used to plant an acre of peas, butter beans, peas, corn, okra, melons, asparagus, broccoli, peppers, & tomatoes. We're not there yet, but the plants I put in should be a significant supplement to our food budget. I expect to be able to recover most of my construction costs in food savings this year and be in the green ;) next year.

Since she bought in, she asked me to create a quarter circle bed to wrap around this L-shaped raised bed. If you look at the picture on my blog (http://dillonallen.com/blog/hugelkultur-bed-i-part-1/) it's the area shown in the bottom right that is covered in rye grass and a ring of barish dirt. Anyway, this weekend I chopped and dropped as suggested here, covered with composted wood & manure/rice hulls/topsoil and planted a whole ton of random wildflowers as well as some accent spots with more echinacea and some sunflowers. So there should be a wall of "pretty" in front of our tower of "yummy". WOO!!! If there wasn't tons of other reasons already, Jack earned my MSB membership with this one for sure.

And I WILL put some pictures up here. I have to go take them... working 6days/12hours right now. I rarely see daylight at home right now unless I'm playing with the kids.

Offline Bigredmt

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2012, 08:13:39 PM »
That is a nice looking raised hugel bed, makes me think or a herb spiral and how plants planted in the different parts will get different access to water. Also were you going to rotate your planting list through just that bed?

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2012, 06:02:30 AM »
and I forgot one... Stevia (1 square foot) in the herb portion of the garden.

That is a nice looking raised hugel bed, makes me think or a herb spiral and how plants planted in the different parts will get different access to water.
Yeah, the herbs are down low, which will have good access to water. This part of the bed is most like just growing in the ground. Since herbs, in general, are just tasty weeds I figured they can fend for themselves a bit more. The mid-height tier is where all of my peas, tomatoes, and most of my leafy greens are. There is a significant amount of wood and other "hugel" or mound material beneath that soil. So the thirsty tomatoes should be sitting pretty. The highest tier is where my root veggies and deeper rooting plants are. I also planted my zucchini here so that I can pick it at waist level instead of having to bend down to harvest. While that tier is only 10" higher than the middle one, I stacked even more wood into this area so there is less than 10" difference in soil depth to the "underground reservoir" as Jack calls it in his hugelkultur discussions.

As a side benefit, the height of the various tiers will make it significantly easier to access with a camera. I like to do macro (or near macro) photography of plants and the tiny animals that most people walk right past without a thought. Seeing all of those little dudes working to make a living is a reminder to me that we are all small pieces of the puzzle on this planet. I'm hoping I can get a few good shots of some ants doing their business that I can turn into an avatar here.

Also were you going to rotate your planting list through just that bed?
Just that bed. I used square foot gardening guidelines for spacing/plant density. The list above is just the first rotation. Some of the plants will be cut under once they've given up the ghost and I will replant new stuff for summer/fall in their place. I'm planning to harvest some of the leafy greens whole and cut single leaves from others to help me get into a rotation. This is my first high-density garden and from what I've read online, many people put WAY more thought into it than I did (my wife and I spent about an hour researching spacing and laying out the planting using Excel). Next year I will be starting seeds early (I won one of the soil cubes Jack gave away this winter). I didn't know this bed was going to be in for spring planting and I had NO idea that my wife was going to go all-in with it. Next year, I am aiming to have 'maters by May using indoor seed starting and some season-extending techniques. One of those is to use the 4x4s in the corner as the base of a PVC/visquene row cover that I can store in my garage.

I will post the Excel tool that I'm now using to set my rotations that has my layout. It's still a work in progress and is my customization of the free tool I downloaded from Sprout3 - http://www.sprout3.com/?p=85.

Offline rendok

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How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2019, 02:51:24 AM »
I am a spammer and I just copied the entire first post in this topic in order to spam for a Vietnamese maid service.


MODERATOR NOTE:  8)
« Last Edit: June 25, 2019, 11:23:57 AM by Mr. Bill »

Offline bigbear

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2019, 08:11:28 AM »
For the hugel bed, I'd put the existing soil back on top.  But I don't think it really matters though.  Ultimately, it'll find it's own balance of soil life over time.

For the other bed, I'd till the first year just to loosen the soil quicker than building it up over time (i.e. the years it takes to happen in a forest).  If you go that path, till in the rye.  I get that it messes with the sub-soil life, but I think the benefits of loose soil/time/water retention/nutrients outweigh the downside.  Plus, you're "tilling" the hugel bed by digging it out and refilling it with looser soil (and adding the nutrients). 

If you want to stay true to the no-till method, then chop/drop but then cover with a couple inches of compost/manure and then a couple more inches of wood chips.  I'd repeat this process next year as well.  Then in a few years you'll have a few inches of compost/manure to work with and the chips will have started to breakdown as well.

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2019, 10:15:51 PM »
For the non-hugel bed, you could use the "lasagna" method, covering the area with cardboard, wetting the cardboard thoroughly, then putting compost and mulch on top of the cardboard (at least 2-3 inches of each).  Then just poke holes in the cardboard and plant into the soil beneath.  The cardboard will smother the grass, which will decompose into the soil, and the cardboard will disintegrate over the course of a few months, further feeding the soil.

Offline Stwood

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Re: How to "till" and be no-till
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2019, 09:18:59 AM »
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