Over the last 24 hours I’ve been thinking a lot about the advantages of raised bed gardening and no-till agriculture. Those advantages include less soil compaction and less damage to beneficial organisms that live in the soil.
Chemical-free weed control is very difficult without tillage, so it’s particularly hard to farm organically without tilling. For me it’s also just been hard to wrap my head around a completely new way of doing things. I learned gardening as a child and we always plowed the garden and laid out straight rows. We have lots of room here so we had no reason to conserve space. So I’ve just kept on tilling and setting out rows of seeds or plants in the freshly tilled soil.
Less damage from erosion is another advantage of raised beds and no-till.
Yesterday it rained 2 inches between midnight and mid-morning, leaving one end of our brassicas garden looking like this.
Once the ground was saturated the alleys between the rows acted liked ditches, channeling the water to the end of the rows, where it backed up then flowed over the rows downhill in the other direction, washing up plants and sweeping topsoil from the garden.
The garden I’d freshly tilled for corn and okra was even worse, but I didn’t take any pictures of it. The rain had washed a big gully right down the middle of it.
In the pea garden the rows were flattened and many of the pea seeds are now laying on the top of the ground. When it dries up some I’ll figure out if it’s necessary to replant it.
This sort of thing happens every few years. Sometimes the damage is much worse than this. A heavy rain on freshly tilled soil on sloping land can wash away crops and topsoil. Sometimes entire gardens or fields can be wiped out.
I did not anticipate the end of the row washout in the brassicas garden and I could’ve done some things to prepare for it, possibly preventing any damage.
I did anticipate potential problems in the corn garden, however, and I took steps to prevent any erosion. Obviously those steps weren’t good enough. I see now that I need to dig a drainage ditch there and I’ll do that once it dries out.
The good news is that in the places where there was no damage all this rain (followed, we expect, by a few warm sunshiney days) should cause the gardens to thrive. Unfortunately, however, yesterday was further proof that it’s possible to get too much of a good thing.