This thread will be a brief summary of the philosophy behind No Tilling, along with a guide on how to transition over into this type of system from your current set up. Enjoy!
"What is No Till Gardening?"
No Till Gardening resonates from the natural processes we see in our ecosystem. It abides by natures laws, and focuses on building soil through natural processes rather than dumping it out, re-amending, and then refilling your pots.
It is the never-ending cycle of life, death, and decay that our ecosystem relies so heavily upon to regenerate without the need for human intervention. In nature a tree falls to the ground, is decomposed, and eventually returns to the ecosystem in the form of humus. In a no till setting, we harvest our flowers and return all leaves, branches, and stalks to the mulch layer to follow suit. Nutrition once lost is now returned, and held onto indefinitely via the (hopefully) relatively high TCEC (total cation exchange capacity) of the soil body.
Most of us can recognize this process by what we all see come Autumn; leaves fall from the tree tops and land on the ground, are broken down and returned to the soil. Without this intrinsic process of the soil food web, leaves would pile so high that trees would become completely engulfed in organic matter; resulting in certain extinction. This is the magnificent orchestra of the soil food web; a never-ending cycle fueled by trillions of microorganisms, soil enzymes, bacteria and fungi that regenerate ecosystems - no matter how small the size. [/size]
Week 4 of veg - 25 gallon containers
1) Container, or raised bed?
The first thing you should determine is the container size and how many gallons your soil mix will be. Unlike soilless mediums, below ground biomass will directly correlate to above ground biomass in soil. With that being said, you're going to want to figure out what size pots (or beds) will grow the size plants you want.
I started with 10 gallons, and moved up to 25 gal containers recently I don't like going under 10 gallons, because plants become root-bound for me in mid flower when I veg for the typical 4 weeks. The 25's are light enough to move around, but give me more wiggle room for root development so to speak.
2) Your soil mix
This is everything, and should be where you invest most of your budget. Balance within the soil is everything. A balanced soil mix will exponentially outperform an imbalanced soil mix. When certain elements are in excess, they can greatly effect other elements or completely lock them. So choose a balanced recipe that's tried and true rather than letting your inner Bill Nye go ham with the amendments.
There are many mixes out there, so choose the one that suits you and what you're able to source locally. I'll post the recipe I've used with success for the past 2 years, but first I'll touch on alternative solutions for the base mix because this will be subjective depending on your location/access to different materials. Use whatever you can buy locally to avoid having to ship heavy materials to your state.
Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss
Replacements - Leaf mold
Replacements - Pumice, Grow Stones, Perlite
Replacements - Earthworm castings, Organic manure
No Till Soil Base Mix:
1 part Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss
1 part (high quality) Compost
1 part Aeration (75% Lava rock, 20% Bio char, 5% Rice hulls)
Acadian Kelp Meal @ 1/2 Cup per cubic foot
Neem Cake and Karanja Cake 50/50 Mix @ 1/2 cup per cubic foot
Crustacean Meal @ 1/2 Cup per cubic foot
Gypsum Dust @ 1 Cup Per Cubic Foot
Brix Blend Basalt @ 1 Cup Per Cubic Foot
Glacial Rock Dust @ 1 Cup Per Cubic Foot
Oyster Flour @ 1 Cup Per Cubic Foot
Malted Barley @ 2 Cup Per Cubic Foot
1 Handful of Red Wigglers (per container)
1 Handful of European Night Crawlers (per container)
Side note -
The greatest thing I've found when it comes to adding worms to your containers is the fact that in time (2-3 cycles) your worms will completely
turn over the soil into nutrient-rich worm castings. This is huge, because you can then take that original body of soil and use it for your 1/3 humus portion in a future base mix. That's right, you can triple the volume of your original soil mix in less than a year's time. Talk about sustainability!
My Watering Regimen:
Day 1 - H20
Day 3 - H20
Day 5 - Coconut Water (1/4 cup per gallon) OR Freeze dried Coconut Powder (1 tsp per gallon)
Day 7 - H20
Day 9 - H20
Day 11 - Aloe Vera puree (1/4 cup fillet per gallon) OR Aloe Vera 200x powder (1/4 tsp per gallon)
Day 13 - H20
Day 15 - H20
Day 17 - Malted Barley powder (1/4-1/2 cup per 25 gallon pot) watered in with Bio Ag's Fulpower (20 ml per gallon)
Here's the important part. The part that most beginners will exempt after hearing no tilling consists of sowing a cover crop, or simply mulching in straw. A rude awakening is waiting for them if they don't follow this next step:
After cutting, hanging and drying your crop remember to return your left over biomass to the surface of your mulch layer
. This will not only feed your microorganisms, but it will return most of the nutrition used during that cycle to the soil. Just as leaves fall in Autumn, our biomass falls at harvest. And the cycle continues...
After taking cuttings/sprouting seedlings you can simply dig a hole next to your existing stalk, and plant anew. Your left over root mass will feed the microorganisms in the soil and will eventually be completely broken down, performing a natural "tillage" in the soil by leaving behind tiny channels of air. Combine that with the pathways made by the worms you've added, and you can soon begin to see how it is possible to never till again.
The only things that I add at the beginning of each cycle is 1 tbsp kelp meal per container
(for too many reasons to list), and some straw if the mulch layer is mostly digested (usually by this time it is). That's it!