Tilling the top layer of soil has been traditionally carried out by many gardeners as a millennium-old tradition.Read more to know about tilling.
Tilling is done before planting to get rid of the weeds, make it easier to plant crops, to add air in to the soil and allow fertilizers to reach the depth of the soil. Tilling turns out to be very strenuous for a lot of gardeners. Along with the pros it has its cons. But in most cases of tilling, the cons surpasses the pros.
One major effect of tilling is damage to the soil structure, sometimes with irreversible effects. Digging into the topsoil layer can also disrupt the natural growing environment where there exists a symbiotic relationship between the micro-organisms and the soil surface. While tilling only provides benefits that are very slim, its repercussions are not to be easily ignored. It is only since the last half century that this practice has been challenged and modern gardeners have taken up “No-till Gardening”.
With no-till gardening, once the soil bed is established the surface is never disturbed. Compost, fertilizers, manure, peat etc are applied on the top soil from where they will be pulled down in the subsoil by watering and the activity of various subsoil organisms. No-till gardening considerably lowers down the frequency and severity of soil disturbance.
Mulch is the most essential part of no-till gardening. Mulching is carried out regularly to avoid the propagation of weeds. Religiously applying a thick layer of mulch on the topsoil keep the soil from drying out which might restrict nutrient and water flow into the subsoil. It also minimizes loss of water due to evaporation. By adding mulch in layers, the underlying soil remains spongy which makes it easy for the young roots of newly planted seedlings to grow through the soil.
The common materials used in mulching are:
- Bark and wood shavings
- Fallen leaves
- Grass clippings
Benefits of no-till gardening:
- Elevates earthworm population:
The moist conditions of the soil beneath the mulch creates a favourable environment for earthworms, whose activity helps in aeration of the soil and promotes root growth.
- Saves energy and time:
By using the no-till gardening method, we save the time and energy which is otherwise wasted in tilling the soil, either by hand or a tiller.
- Reduces soil erosion:
Due to the application of mulch the topsoil is not eroded away by wind, water or anything for that matter. Also a lack of carbon may promote soil erosion which can be averted by adopting no-till gardening.
- Helps retain soil carbon content:
Carbon-enriched humus is one of the most important components of the topsoil. It provides required nutrients to plants. Tilling disrupts the carbon content of the plant. Hence, all the carbon dependent nutrients of the soil is lost. So, we must encourage the use of no-till gardening in order to keep the carbon content of the topsoil at an optimum level.
- Saves water:
Use of mulch in no-till gardening retains soil moisture. Thick layers of mulch provide shade to the topsoil and prevent water loss due to evaporation. Also, maintains a moist growing environment beneficial for root growth.
- Promotes natural aeration:
Earthworms and other soil life are important for healthy soil structure, their tunnels provide aeration and drainage, and their excretions bind together soil crumbs. No-till gardening methods are said to be free of pests and diseases.
Apart from mulches, bedding plants also play a major role in no-till gardening. Cover plants discourages the propagation of weeds. They also bind the topsoil together and return essential nutrients to it.
No-till gardening is a gentler way of managing soil quality. So, all in all saying no to tilling is the best decision taken by the gardeners/farmers for garden management.
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