Living Soil Gardening
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Tips, ideas and more about regenerative vegetable growing. Companion group for Q&A:
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At the moment your beds should be full of overwintering vegetable for winter and spring harvests (Kale, Cabbages, Broccoli, Parsnips, Cauliflowers, etc.), or with green manures. In the worse case scenario they are mulched very well with a thick layer of organic matter (compost, leaves, straw, hay, etc.)
But sometimes a bed gets out of hand and goes a bit weedy, and that's fine - weeds are doing the job you should have done: cover the soil.

In about 1 (indoors) or 2 (outdoors) months it will be time to transplant and sow things in the ground, so how do you "flip" a bed from the previous crop (or green manure, or weeds) to the new one?
In this video I go through the steps of what we call "bed flip" or "bed prep". There is no soil "flipping" or turning obviously, the flip is between a crop and the next one. Notice that here I am talking about an existing no-dig bed, at least 6 months old, that has already had a crop in it. This applies to beds that currently have a crop, a green manure or weeds, not to beds that are already mulched and ready to go.

In these cases, how much compost you apply depends on your context. It might be as little as 2cm or as much as 10cm, but usually no more than that.
Also, note that you have between now and the day you are going to transplant your next crop; and the advantage of this method is that you can literally do this and transplant the next crop a few minutes later, provided that the compost is well decomposed.
Here we go with the second part of this short video series on agroforestry in a vegetable or market garden context.

In part 1 of this series (see previous posts or our youtube channel), I looked at a few "common traits" of agroforestry systems across the world, and review the main types of agroforestry with emphasis on how they could adapt to a market-garden scenario.

In part 2 (link below) I discuss a few examples of market gardens around the world which have integrated agroforestry in their operations, and I will be commenting images and videos from those models.

Finally, in part 3, I will illustrate how all of this has influenced our design and I will introduce the agroforestry systems at Orto Foresta - the new incarnation of Living Soil Garden.

None of these videos have the ambition of being systematic, comprehensive, or authoritative. They provide a subjective look at this topic of great interest and on which there are few shared data and experiences at the moment. Because of this, any input is super encouraged!
📚 We continue with our Back to the Source series, this week with a couple of book on No-Till Market gardening. These are extremely useful references for those who are or inclined to learn from commercial growers.

📗 Daniel Mays’ book “The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm” is easily the best book out there on small-scale organic no-dig market gardening. As the subtitle suggests, it contains very practical advice on “how to start and run a profitable market garden that builds health in soil, crops, and communities”.
👩‍🌾 The information is detailed and includes topics less common in similar books, such as how to use tarps, how to use and terminate cover crops without tillage, designing and setting out drainage and irrigation systems, integrating livestock in a vegetable farm and much more.

📙 Bryan O’Hara’s “No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture, by Bryan O’Hara” is a book that’s more relevant to larger scale market gardens or vegetable farms. It is invaluable if you are trying to transition of set up a no-till system on an area larger than 1-2 acres. Bryan goes through all the ways one can use to break sod, convert old pasture, remove stones and amend soil by use of cover crops and other initial measures.
The book contains a very informative discussion and description of how to make compost on a large scale, and differentiates between composts for mulching, nutrition, propagation - all made on situ with a mix of waste from the farm and locally imported materials.

🍀 The fertility chapter is also interesting, with some detailed protocols for liquid organic amendments, inspired by the biodynamic system, which is the framework O’Hara uses in his work. Highly recommended to those who want to scale up their no-till acreage, step up their compost making game, learn how to manage cover-crops in no-dig on a large scale, and more.
Back to the Source series - Episode 10
“The healing of this planet is not a matter of humanity stepping out, creating a separate human realm and leaving nature untouched. It will not come through minimizing our impact; it will come through changing the nature of our impact. It will come through a different kind of participation in nature, one where humanity returns to being an extension of, and not an exception to, ecology... As the paramount environmental narrative today, climate change obscures the much larger, more direct, and more local influence of “land management changes” in causing drought, flooding, heat waves, and other kinds of extreme weather. Climate change, instead of being an incentive to enact more ecologically beneficial policies, becomes a convenient scapegoat that diverts attention from effective local measures and shifts responsibility for ecological healing onto distant, global institutions.”

(Charles Eisenstein, “Climate: A New Story”)
Back to the Source series - Episode 11
📚 Time for another “Back to the Source” post. This is a series in which we review the books that we use in our work, inform our planning and that we consult often.

🔍 This week we add two more books on Market Gardening which do not promote a no-till approach, but are very useful (if very different from each other). In fact, each of the authors wouldn’t probably appreciate the other’s book.

📗 The first book is “Growing Green” by Jenny Hall and Iain Tolhurst. Tolhurst is one of the most influential organic growers in the UK: with 30+ years of experience, he has pioneered and promoted a radical way to farm. He developed what he calls a stock-free system, which does not use any animal inputs, and instead relies on green manures and biodiversity to build fertility. His work is a true eye-opener, and although the organisation of the books is unnecessarily schematic and not the smoothest read, it is full of invaluable and inspiring information.

📕 The second book is “The Market Gardener” by JM Fortier. This is a good book if you like effective, straightforward solutions and look at your garden as a business that has to produce consistent results, quickly. This is not always the best approach, because ecosystems can’t be oversimplified and although planning and business savviness are useful, observation and creative problem-solving are much more crucial tools for ecological regeneration.
Some will argue that JM’s method, which is essentially a very efficient version of biointensive vegetable growing, isn’t very regenerative. Because he uses the power harrow of his walk-behind tractor extensively, even though shallowly.
However, there are a few great things about JM’s work. He has brought the work of Eliot Coleman and other biointensive farmers into the 21st century. He approaches market gardening as a business that can and has to have clear goals and methods. JM’s approach to designing & running a garden as well as handling & selling crops is dynamic and pragmatic, and many young growers have been inspired by it. My advice about the book is: take from it what is good, and go study more on what is overlooked (e.g., why and how to avoid regular soil disturbance).