Definition: An agricultural technique used to grow crops without disturbing the soil through tillage -- also referred to as “Zero tilling.”
No-Till Farming in the Forest Garden:
Tillage has been the primary method of preparing soil before planting for centuries. While tilling can benefit farmers through aerating and turning crop residue into the soil, minimizing weed growth, and even burying pests, these benefits are negated by the multiple disadvantages of tilling.
Tilling destroys the soil’s structure and leaves the soil exposed to erosion and moisture loss. It also damages the atmosphere, as it frees up stored carbon in the soil, releasing it into the air as carbon dioxide.
Alternatively, farmers in the Forest Garden Program apply a technique known as double digging. While this process is more labor intensive, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term gains from tilling land. By double digging in their Forest Garden where needed, farmers are not only able to prepare the land for cultivation and suppress weed growth, but they can also now preserve natural soil structure of their land, increase the water capacity and moisture retention of the soil, and reduce erosion. If double digging is not possible or requires too much labor, constantly adding soil organic matter and feeding the microorganisms in the soil can also serve as a viable alternative.