Gardening & Farming Are Both Similar & Very Different. But When It Comes To Crop Growing & Cultivation Similarities Are Increasing. No Dig Gardening & Regenerative Agriculture Are Going Down the Same Track. Here Is How Farmers Are Copying Gardeners.
How Farmers Are Copying Gardeners isn’t always obvious. After all there are so many differences. I don’t just mean the scale of operations with farmers managing vast tracts of land whilst gardeners have very small plots. And it’s not just that farming crops tend to be produced at the rate of one per year whilst gardeners can produce multiple crops per year.
The real similarities I’m seeing is where cultivations are similar. There was a time when the accepted wisdom was to plough fields and dig gardens. The idea was to bury weeds and other trash and to aerate the soil. If done in autumn or early winter the frost would break down the lumps and we’d get a fine frost tilth in which to sow our spring seeds.
To Plough or Dig, That Is The Question
The whole concept of ploughing, digging and delving has been thrown on its head. More gardeners are going down the No Dig route. The recent zoom session I had with Charles Dowding is evidence of the interest (see the link to the video to learn more). On Facebook Charles has 48,000 likes so it’s not a fringe interest topic.
And you’ve only to love at how the understanding of soil fungi has advanced in recent years. When I was at college it was never mentioned. Today we see David Attenborough talking about soil fungi on prime time TV and authors such as Merlin Sheldrake getting great acclaim for his fungi book, Entangled Lives.
So what has this to do with farming? Well, for years a few farmers have gone down the Min-til route. That Minimal Cultivations to you and I. And some have gone further with No-Till farming. The results speak for themselves say advocates. And various commercial companies are conducting long term trials into the various options.
This change in emphasis in part replicates No Dig, at least in principle.
Does Cutting Cultivations Work?
It depends is a terrible answer to these questions. But it’s a honest answer.
It depends how good you are at each of the techniques, on your equipment and what you are trying to achieve. Certainly in farming there is a yield reduction in the early years when cultivations are reduced. But as soil fertility builds up the yields increase. In gardens we see higher yields from day one of converting to No Dig. And the yields seem to keep growing for several years.
But of course much depends on the expertise and commitment of the farm manager or gardener. I doubt any farmer that is expert in the high-input ploughing regime ways is going to do well in cutting back on cultivations unless they are fully committed to it.
Ditto gardening. If you try to compare digging with No Dig but haven’t learnt the philosophy behind no Dig, don’t expect it to work.
Plus we need to relearn much of what was taught years ago. Science has advanced and we need to advance our gardening techniques across the board. the old ways worked in the old days. We now know better in so many ways. Though I have a sneaking admiration for many old techniques. In many cases they understood a to more than some people give them credit for. And if they knew then, what w know now, I’m sure they would be No Dig gardening or Regenerative Agriculture farming.
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