I hate protracted arguments, so here is a brief summary of why no-till
is best for the gardener (or even the small herb farmer). There are
fundamental differences between a gardener and a farmer. A farmer does
it for a living (for profit). A gardener does it as recreation and
also for health.
1) a farmer does mostly annuals, a gardener does a mixture. Farmers
that do perennials (like herbs) tend to do no-till, unless they want
to kill their asparagus plot to put something else in there.
2) gardeners spend a disproportionate amount of time weeding compared
to farmers. Mulch and no-till minimize that time.
3) farmer mostly seeds, gardener mostly plants. Mulch is incompatible
with seeding, and I always have to plan ahead about that so that a few
plots are clear of mulch (there are a few greens that I prefer to
seed, and this is best done by mulching with leaves, which dissipate
in one year). Where I don't mulch, I have weeds. It is a breeze to
plant right through the mulch, and it is a do-it-once job that agrees
with my philosophy. Mulch and automatic seeding are not really
compatible, so the farmer is right to avoid mulching.
4) farmer pays water 1/3 to 1/5 of what I pay.
5) farmer has automatic irrigation. Even if I have it, I have to water
seedlings and plants by hand until established. Mulch reduces that
6) it is inconceivable for farmer to leave at critical times during
the growing season for three weeks, but I do that all the time. The
mulched plant takes that much better than the unmulched plant.
7) farmer has a tractor, which services a large tract of land and
therefore pays for itself. A tiller, I don't know, costs $500? For
that kind of money I can build a large hoophouse that will give me
many more veggies (and a more extended season) that a tiller can ever
provide. Maintenance-free, too, as a hoophouse has no carburetor.
Fighting with a recalcitrant piece of equipment is the least
entertaining part of gardening (gardening is supposed to be relaxing).
8) a tiller will never give as good a tilth as no-till, and makes
9) farmer has to pay bills, can not wait for no till to work. My
parents took a plot of clay and with mulch, taprooted veggies and
other ground-breaking veggies such as favas and potatoes, brought it
to heel within a few years (and enjoyed it ever since).
9) a farmer tills, applies herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer. I do
none of that, because no-till improves soil fertility, improves plant
resistance to disease, and the mulch and no-till block out weeds. I am
very happy that my food is free of that, thank you very much.
10) farmer has to follow market, I do not. I can put down 3 inches of
wood chips (a somewhat harsh material that agrees with only a few
veggies, and takes two to three years to go) knowing that this year I
will plant tomatoes, the next garlic
and so on and so forth.
11) I have much better access to my land. As you posted earlier, a
farmer would have to have dump trucks come in and leave deep ruts, and
then it needs to be spread out. I can drag a few tarps full of leaves
to my beds and be done with mulching for the year in a couple of
The cons are slugs and voles, which I have now beaten, and in warmer
climates the encouragement of disease.
We use no till where the consumer is unwilling to pay the extra it
costs for quality in the current marketplace. It can be likened to a
fine furniture craftsman selling his wares. You wouldnt expect him to
sell a hand crafted piece of furniture using conscientious materials and
resources, with his customers best interest in mind, for the same price
Walmart gets for a particle board computer desk in a box. He will gladly
sell you a box of sh*t if thats all your willing to pay for but if you
want the handcrafted piece you have to want it. The same goes for us in
our marketplace. We arent big enough to make our operation profitable
solely on commercially competitive produce and plants and our market is
to small in the organics to support us either. We have to blend the two
to be profitable but we sure as hell arent going to sell the quality
stuff for the same as GreenGiant produce. It just aint da same sh*t.
We live in a society (US here) driven predominantly by low cost and low
quality food. In the case of the above scenario also by low quality
department store goods. Todays consumer cares not for conscientious
practices with regards to their purchases and this causes us to make
decisions to do what we choose, and thats small scale farming and
nursery sales, in some percentage in the way the masses want it. Its
simply a decision based on the current market. One can hope it will
change or not but it is what it is.
You clearly understand the economics, yet say the marketplace does
*not* drive production. It does, whether you like it or not. There are
more people who want low-cost goods and food than those who are highly
discriminating and can afford top dollar for perceived top quality.
Exaggerating for effect, your fine furniture craftsman can't make much
of a living if he produces one beautiful chair every 3 months and
tries to sell it for $5,000. The market for $5,000 chairs is extremely
limited. The craftsman may reasonably argue that his chair is far
superior to the 4 included in a tatty, machine-made 5-pc 'dinette
set', and that the price includes 3 months of labor, but if no one can
afford his fine work, he and his family will starve.
You write as if consumers were making choices to prefer inferior food
and goods, rather than preferring lower prices. You can't grab
customers by the throat and *force* them to pay a premium for what you
regard as a superior product. If/when there are enough consumers who
want and can afford organic foods, or if/when organic foods can be
produced as cheaply as non-, everyone will be eating organic foods.
*I* would like to compare specially-raised produce to common or
(non-)garden varieties, but I can't afford to.
You *do* understand. The marketplace is driving your own practices.
You can't change tastes by legislation or by telling people they
*should* be more discriminating.
always good, even refreshing, to see free market principles strongly
defended in a recreational usenet group. Way on topic. What about
agricultural free trade, frogs? Gotta eliminate those tariffs. Just as
important as tilling, if not more. Any nuggets about the Doha round?
I dont believe the marketplace (consumer) -solely- drives production. In
todays climate if you cant see that people purchase what they are fed
(and heavily marketed I might add) you are blind. The simple fact of the
matter is that in the vast majority of cases the consumer "really"
doesnt make his or her decision on their purchases, for the most part
the marketers and manufacturers make it for them.
As an example, granted there are still the families who are making
decisions based on how many dollars they have to feed a given quantity
of fry in their part of the creek bed but we are witnessing one of the
many episodes of sustained good times right now with the biggest
vehicles and homes flying off the lots by the bag full and yet the drive
for lower and lower quality, cost, and conscientious, products is at an
all time high. Now, we both know that if coupled with the marketing for
these products were merely tidbits of the long and short term
consequences that go hand in hand with these low cost, low quality
goods, they would not be the choice for most consumers.
Now you say, well thats ludicrous, its in a companies best interest to
market there product in a positive way and they would never do anything
to the contrary, which I agree with whole heatedly. However the point is
that we have bred a climate of willing numbness which will gladly look
the other way as long as they get the first two criteria fulfilled, low
cost, and low quality disguised as medium quality. We no longer live in
a society where a company can tell the consumer "DDT is good for me" and
they have no data to the contrary and merely believe what they are told.
As sad as that scenario is, this one is worse. The consumer has more
data than ever, perhaps too much, but willingly chooses to ignore it and
rely on the data fed, no data at all, or in some cases look right at it,
and yet still turn the other cheek.
Think of this in direct relation to your statement to the effect that
"when people can afford better quality they will buy it". For the first
time in the history of consumer goods we have a parking lot where on a
_daily_ basis a Lexus or Mercedes SUV will be parked right next to a
1972 Ford barely passing inspection. You walk inside the store and there
is the woman driving the Lexus and the woman driving the 75' Ford
shopping in the same isle, buying the same product (for arguments sake
lets say its not in the grocery section). It is not to say that the two
should be segregated away from each other, and it surely isnt that the
store is offering a product of the quality the Lexus owner wants, but at
a cost the welfare mom can afford. If this were the case the welfare mom
would be driving the Lexus too, or at least something more than a 72'
Ford rotting off the frame.
Now I am assuming you would argue that this is a situation caused by the
uplift of low wage individuals who now have the ability to shop where
the rest do coupled with lower costs for quality goods lessening the gap
between the incomes. However I see it completely differently. Having
owned and operated my own businesses over the years I see it as a clear
reduction in the standards we as individuals set for ourselves coupled
with consumption based heavily, if not completely, on marketing. It
spins downward into a lack of self accountability which is a growing
topic of concern and conversation here in the US in every area, from the
justice system, to corporate hierarchy, to the school system, our
government, on and on.
This could be argued that it _still_ shows that it all falls back to the
"market" hence the consumer but many forces shape the way the consumer
thinks and more importantly acts. This is what marketing is at its core,
which is in large part driving the currnet mindset. Your not good at
marketing if you can only get someone to think a certain way, you have
to get them to act on that thought.
While this sounds very glum, I am always extremely optimistic about our
future and realize fully that it is merely a series of cycles in the
market, and its a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
I understand that the consumer, through decisions made for them, is
driving the marketplace. But yes, they are ultimately responsible as
they are forking over the cash. However the vast majority of the blame
doesnt rest on their shoulders. They do however suffer the consequences
of being the messenger but as long as there are pretty flowers passing
by the window they accept them.
This topic always boils down to the "faith" game. Its like religion. Its
the way our societies have been set up for thousands of years. Your
viewpoint takes it out of the hands of anyone (for the most part, but I
know is the consumer) and throws it all up to a well studied but elusive
and mysterious force in the air as to why the market moves the way it
does having only subtle changes made, at best, by savvy or lucky
manufactures/marketers who do well with their work. I disagree. Rarely
in the economics debate, just as in religious debate, are
manufacturers/marketers talked about as a driving force or in fact the
orchestrators of the way the market moves. The manufacturer/marketer is
always seen as somewhat questionable but just poor sole, who is merely
trying to peddle his wares. In the faith based viewpoint it all falls
back to the consumer driving demand taking the responsibility away and
only allowing individuals to sit back and watch where it will go. While
I agree that the economy at its root is almost a living, breathing,
entity the ability to control it is becoming more and more available to
forces further down the chain (marketers, manufacture, government).
My position is that of course, the consumer always holds the ultimate
power which is where the real sh*t is, but there is a steering wheel, it
works perfectly well, and at least in the climate of the past 20-30
years, the consumer has barely had a pinky on the wheel (willingly) and
is looking out the side window at the pretty flowers going by. There are
other hands that are gladly doing the driving. Of course the pinky, in
an instant, can become a fist, or two, swatting the other hands away
taking full control but those flowers are really pretty.
Look, this has clearly gone way off, but still a fun conversation none
the less. I am sure we are teetering on the seesaw (or perhaps already
fallen off) of the people who just cant stand "ignore" or "delete"
pelting the thread with their "just stop its". If you want to take this
off Usenet it may be best. It has been fun, I could talk about this all
day(s) and always learn a thing or two, or three.
Oh, dear. This is getting very long. I will try to be brief and leave
out the analogies. I don't see a great deal of marketing directed at
sterring me away from organic products and toward those which are the
result of more industrialized processes. Could you supply an example
please? I note that one ad in today's paper has "bananas: 3lb/$1" and
"organically grown bananas: $0.69/lb" -- both without editorializing.
I didn't say that. I said the market for high-priced goods and
services is smaller than that for the lower-priced variety. I made no
attempt to predict the shopping habits of the privileged.
So there should be different stores for rich and poor? I'm missing
AFAIK, the Jolly Green Giant doesn't practice thought control.
Consumers base their buying decisions on a myriad of factors. For
those with less money, the choices are more limited. And a high income
has little to do with taste or discrimination -- only with the number
of styles/choices that are possible.
How do you keep the Evil Ones from molding *your* thoughts?
Yes. I learned something about no-till. It's an interesting concept.
But if you were willing to wait "a long time," how would mulch make it
down to the soil that needs to be improved? I have a lot of worms in
my compost, but the clay ground underneath is still...clay.
Maybe in Malaysia. Weeds here are pretty much regular ol' plants,
grasses, and vines.
How does tilling reduce organic matter?
I don't know your methods, but around here, mulch has to be regularly
re-applied to surpress weeds. And my experience is that desired plants
that have to compete with weeds for water (in short supply at some
times of year) do poorly, no matter how vigorously they start out.
I had to go to my land now, I will give more detail if I can find it
in my notes when I'm back.
A soil lack of oxygen(water log, compact..) will hinder life
form(plant root, earthworn...) to go into it.
Eartthworm don't like low PH soil.
All organic matter can decopose to become carbon and nutrient.
Decoposition go faster when oxygen are available. This is why compost
pile are recommended to turn for airation. Tillage do bring in oxygen.
I'm refer to annual crop, vegetable..., those just take a few months
to mature. For perenial, mulch of course should be re-applied. There
is something else you had to do to make this work, but I can assure
you that it's working at my land.
Sorry! I'm in a rush, will not check my spelling or wording at all.
Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
I can't find it in my notes, I think has been deleted, so I will reply
base on what I remember.
Direct way as a night crawler(earthworm) pull the mulch down to the
Indirect way as a slug eating the mulch, and die in a tunnel due to
If the worms in the compost do not want to move down to your clay
soil, this is what you get.
It can be they don't like your soil(low PH, water log...), or they
don't have the need(looking for shelter, water...) to do it.
If you plant some deep root type plant on your compost after it's
cured, you will see the soil are changing.
But you have to make sure the plant will bear with your soil. There is
some plant that can live in a low PH, water log soil.
Succulent just a generic indicator of lack of lignin, search in Google
to find up the % of lignin in your *regular ol' plants,
grasses, and vines*.
When transplant, I will use a hand held string treamer to mow(?) dow
the weed, make a hole, plant the transplant. Add more mulch to about
6 inches thick. Normally people recommend 3 inches, but I'm using
thick mulch to avoid the need to add mulch for annual plant.
For perenial, I will use string treamer to mow dow the weed where it
can be. For weed around perenial, I use sickle to mow(?) it. After
that I reapply mulch to 6 inches deep. I do not pull the weed because
some weed are hard to pull and weed pulling will hurt perenial feeder
One of the reason of I prefer man power than large machinary are this
will create job and reduce the crime cause by unemployment.
Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
Actually, no-till is probably much easier to do on a large scale. Many
of the big farm equipment companies make machines specifically for the
purpose of no-till.
I don't know where you live but you might call your state's extension
service and see if they can put you in touch with someone actually using
no-till processes. You might learn a lot.
While no single system will work better than all others in all cases,
no-till certainly does not result in *lower* yields in most cases.
Here's a piece at the University of Maryland (where much of the no-till
technology was poineered, IIRC):
And another (PDF) from Iowa State University:
If you don't believe them, here's a farmer writing about no-till:
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