Lester C. Fretz
No Till Gardening
Why are some gardens unproductive?
It’s because spading and roto tilling kill beneficial worms and microbes.
For proven reasons, no till farming is replacing plowing. If no till farming is good for the farmer, perhaps gardeners should also consider the value of this approach.
Tilling the soil every year is an age old tradition. Hoeing around such plants as peppers, tomatoes or sweet corn simply cuts off roots which are desperately needed to transmit nutrients and moisture to the plant. Rather than hoe to loosen the soil and remove weeds, apply a good layer of shredded leaves around the plants. Not only does this approach have many benefits but it’s also less work for the aging back!
Based on the fact an acre has 1 ton of earthworms, a no till garden 20′ x 22′ (approximately 1/100 acre) would have 20 pounds. An earthworm eats its body weight daily. Over the course of the summer, the droppings from this many earthworms would produce significant nutrients such as 1/2 oz. nitrogen, 5 oz. phosphorous plus a considerable amount of potassium, magnesium and calcium. Their tunneling aerates the soil especially beneficial to clay soil.
No till gardening reduces erosion, helps to retains water and eliminates the need for herbicides. On the other hand, tilling: brings dormant weed seeds to the surface to germinate, kills earthworms and may compact soil while decreasing yields due to nutrient deficiencies. Reducing water runoff will reduce mineral leaching.
Rotating crops boosts worm number. Spreading corn meal on the soil is a good way to feed earthworms. An excellent alternative to tilling is the use of shredded leaves and adding mulch of chopped herbs of all kinds which will fertilize the soil, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. No till relies on heavy mulching for the first few years.
It is acknowledged that tilling helps to get a garden bed started quickly where the clay soil is very heavy or breaking up a sod plot.
The photo depicts a no till garden early in the spring where shredded leaves have built up the soil over time. Note also the use of a trellis which has many benefits and can be left in place with no till.
We’d all agree. Spring has been a long time coming. But it feels like it is finally here. Let’s begin our gardening!
Rake up winter debris from flowerbeds. Break off wilting tulip or daffodil heads and allow the foliage to die back naturally.
Lightly side dress perennials with an all-purpose fertilizer. Avoid spilling the fertilizer on the plant, and use care not to damage the shallow roots when you cultivate it into the soil. Spring is a good time to divide perennials.
Prune back early flowering shrubs such as forsythias, weigela and spirea by one third when they have finished blooming.
Remove the wilting seed heads from rhododendrons and azaleas so that the plants’ energy
can go to foliage growth and next year’s flowers, rather than seeds.
Lilacs should be fertilized (10-10-10) and pruned after they finish blooming, removing sucker growths and dead blooms.
Roses, deciduous shrubs and trees may be fertilized (10-10-10). Be sure to water the fertilizer in thoroughly after it is applied. Keep an eye on the roses, spraying for aphids and other diseases such as black spot.
Remove any sucker growths from fruit trees. Cut out all the dead canes from your raspberry patch. The new canes that will bear this year’s fruit should have new, swollen buds along the edges. Thin these to five canes per foot of row to allow good air circulation and prevent overcrowding.
May is a perfect month to repair your lawn. Visit your local garden centre for a good quality lawn care seed and fertilizer.
You won’t want to miss our Annual Plant Sale 7am-noon, Sat. May 12, rain or shine at its new location 210 Main St E (bridge parking lot overlooking the river). Rise early to get great deals on annuals, perennials, as well as unique garden accents and fresh cut flowers for Mother’s Day. Memberships will be available for purchase. All proceeds dedicated to the beatification of Dunnville.
For more gardening tips, join us at the Optimist Hall, 7-9pm on May17 for ““Weeds: Good vs. Bad/Which Weeds are Which?” Speaker: Carla Carlson, Niagara Nature Tours. There will also be an Annual Rose Draw for Members.
Doors open at 6:30 pm. Refreshments are served and the evening is free to members and non-members. Visit our Facebook page and website at: www.dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org. Contact Debbie Thomas, President (905) 774-3064 firstname.lastname@example.org or Vice-President Deb Zynomirski (416) 556-9337 email@example.com.