Fashion, evolution of mentalities, nostalgia for a gardening closer to nature, influence of the media and pressure of social networks, or simply economic, ecological, societal constraints… In short, more and more amateur gardeners feel attracted by different techniques. The shelves of bookstores are full of books in this field, especially on the theme of “permaculture”. A vast subject! No-till gardening is undoubtedly one of the founding elements of this new state of mind.
No-till gardening is not strictly speaking an agricultural technique. It is a contemporary approach inspired by the 19th century market gardening traditions of the Ile-de-France region and the old ways of gardening, an approach that attempts to integrate a certain number of current constraints such as energy, lack of time, respect for the life of the soil…
The general rule is to cultivate above the soil, in order not to exhaust its resources (natural nutrients) while benefiting from the activity of earthworms, bacteria and other micro-organisms. The soil is neither turned nor dug up, because turning upsets the different layers containing the living micro-organisms: the aerobic ones (upper layer) and the anaerobic ones (lower layer) which no longer find the ideal conditions to live. On the other hand, it is aerated by using adapted tools (see below). Another advantage is that the seeds of undesirable weeds will no longer rise to the surface as they would when plowing.
The idea is to keep the soil always covered. This cover keeps the soil cool, reduces the need for water, limits the appearance of weeds and regulates the soil temperature.
Make better use of the land’s resources
The numerous possibilities for implementing these principles are left up to the gardener: creation of permanent beds, straw bales, mounds, lasagnas, piles… from 25 to 50 cm thick. The plots should be 1.20 to 1.50 meters wide so that they can be worked easily and without having to trample through the beds, in order to avoid soil compaction. Indeed, compaction limits the oxygen and the efficiency of all the living organisms in the soil and prevents them from correctly fulfilling their mission of “working the living soil”. To make this mission even more effective, it is essential to ensure a sufficient volume of organic matter, for the initial contribution as well as for maintenance.
No-till gardening is therefore a way to make better use of the existing resources in your own land. It is up to each of us to imagine our own solutions and to use our common sense.
Finally, it must be said again and again that it is not less work, that nothing is done by itself, that this technique is not the solution to everything. It is necessary to be realistic, to try to anticipate in order to prevent, to optimize the space certainly, but by taking into account the associations or companionships, the rotations, the climate or microclimate, the soil and its environment.
The right tools
Of course, in this state of mind, all motorized tools are banned. Goodbye, then, to polluting, noisy and fossil fuel consuming tillers and motor hoes. And long live the tools that allow us to exercise, which is good for our physical and mental health.