TILL VS NO TILL: Soil Biology and BEST Broadfork Techniques

going deeper into this world of soil
health and soil science and understanding what’s going on with your
plants and the soil itself and help create the new natural modern food system everybody welcome back to another
nature’s always right video today’s video is gonna be about the proper best
broad forking technique as well as an explanation of what is no-till what is
tilling what are the differences between them when do we do each of them we’ll be
talking a lot about soil health in general so I hope that you learn a lot
of more details about how the soil structure is formed how the different
microorganisms work together and some more chemistry involved in the soil
conversion process so first of all what is telling let’s define what tilling is
so tilling is you know it’s an actual machine called a tiller and the way that
this machine works is it has rotating spinning blades and what those blades do
is chop through the soil completely blend it completely turn over that soil
so it’s chopping up all the larger insects such as earthworms you know roly
polies the Mack macro micro arthropods then and what it’s also doing it’s
breaking apart all the fungal strands tilling also is killing just lots of
different microscopic life as well the other detrimental thing that tilling
does is when you’re tilling you are breaking down long term stored carbon so
in the soil there’s long term stored carbon and then there is the short term
carbon so the short term carbon that the microbes and soil life has access to
would be like roots that’s a short burning carbon a long burning carbon
molecule is one that has been surrounded by organic matter and is trapped inside
of there and it’s locked away if you’ve ever heard the term carbon sequestration
that’s what they mean by that so the different organic acids and all these
different chemical processes that the microbes are doing create the glue that
holds together organic matter so that is why tilling is so detrimental to the
soil and all of the soil life even the plants
themselves everything is relying on carbon right we are carbon-based
life-forms and if we’re releasing that carbon its supposed to be stored for
hundreds or a thousand years under the ground we’re releasing that sooner and
that effect that that has is obviously some of that goes into the atmosphere
and then some of it now it’s able to be digested by the microbes and now they’re
burning up all of this carbon in the soil that was supposed to be sticking
around for a very long time another effect that tilling has is it’ll cause
you the microbes to feed on a bunch of nitrogen as well as carbon because they
need the combination of both as they’re feeding so it causes meet up of the
microbes they’re infused with oxygen they now have carbon unlocked that they
can go eat when they eat the carbon now they want now they also need more
nitrogen so this is kind of how the loss of topsoil happens so when you’re doing
that over and over and over that is how a situation like the Dust
Bowl happens when you have drought for many years the topsail can no longer
hold moisture because it doesn’t have the organic matter with the long term
carbon in it so then it blows away into the air and it’s lost so those are a few
of the reasons that make tilling so detrimental to soil and there’s also
been soil tests done where they’ve analyzed the soil biology they’ve done
multiple different tasks so they’ve tested no-till organic where they’re not
using any pesticides or herbicides and they’re not telling they also did
tilling with no pesticides and herbicides they also did the strict
conventional you know poisons and tilling and everything
the fourth one that they did they tilled but they didn’t use any pesticides or
herbicides what they found is that tilling had a more damaging effect on
the soil life than pesticides and herbicides did and I think that’s really
fascinating and part of the reason probably is
because those pesticides and herbicides kind of persists on the top of the soil
and they’re not going deeper down in there whereas a tiller is tilling you
know twelve to fourteen inches something like that and it’s rotating all of that
soil so it’s bringing subsoil that was twelve inches down in a totally
different sphere of the soil and bringing it up here you just wanted to
emphasize the fact that you know when we’re tailing we’re bringing that lower
subsoil and we’re bringing it to the top we’re exposing all of that to massive
amounts of oxygen and air and light if this is when the sun’s beating down on
the soil so that’s the kind of definition and explanation of what’s
going on with tilling so if you’re not going to till we’re gonna go to a less
disturbance model what are those models the next lower level of disturbance
would be to use a broad fork this is my tread light broadfork I’ve got a whole
review video all about this broad fork and how to set it up and use it and all
the special features that make it unique and I’ll also be having another video
coming out comparing the three best brands of broad Forks as well so a good
aspect of telling the reason we do it right we’re trying to make the ground
softer we’re trying to make it easier to plant in and to work with we’re also
assuming that our soils are probably going to be compacted and compacted
soils have less oxygen in them and healthy soil that grows food is aerobic
or it has high oxygen content so the broad bark allows us to aerate the bed
while minimally disturbing the ground it also gives lift to the soil which
helps minimize compaction so what you saw me do there with the broad fork I
just broke the ground and lifted slightly this is the proper technique
you might see some people continuing to lift and lift and lift and lift but if
you keep lifting like that what’s happening as I lift and lift and lift
see the subsoil here this is now getting brought to the top
this chump falls over now that’s to the side and now we’re actually rotating
we’re not we’re not getting the effect that we want all we want when we’re
broad forking just to get a minimal break of the soil
lift it up get some air in there to penetrate and we stop and you’ll be able
to see the lift you see the little hump that made so just that little bit of
breakage it’s a bunch of fresh air in there for the soil to help keep it
aerobic to keep those healthy aerobic microbes alive and help them to keep
converting the soil and making it better for us so something else I want to
mention this huge chunk right here none of this has been broken up or disturbed
everything is intact so when we come back with a rake and all this closes up
it’s able to come back together and reform and heal very quickly people have
asked me that question before but this little bit of disturbance is a good
thing for the soil so the healthier that your soil gets the last that this is
gonna be required and if you saw the farm tour with Jared Jared’s real food
he was a local farmer here in San Diego also you’ll notice that his beds that
are about six or seven years old he’s not broad working anymore because it’s
not necessary because the life under the soil has had enough time to convert
everything and it’s so deep down his soil is so soft and low me that he’s
just good to go so I just want to emphasize the fact that a lot of these
disturbance techniques are used more in the beginning of the soil creation and
then as your soil structure improves you should be backing off of that stuff as
quickly as you can as you guys saw when I built this market plot I did till the
ground right so there’s a context for everything there’s no one solution one
right way you also saw me at the new plot you saw me pear garden beds
completely without any machines at all no tilling whatsoever so there’s
different situations when you want to do different things and I think that
tilling especially for the first time when you’re studying up your beds makes
absolutes especially when dealing with hard or
compacted soils now if you’re in an area with more sandy soils you might not need
to use a tiller at all to get it started I needed to do it so that I could get it
going tilling one time it’s gonna be okay the ground is gonna recover
eventually it’s more important that you kind of get that ground unlocked it’s
been compacted for who knows how long maybe a decade and infusing all that
oxygen in there waking up all the microbes to me is not you’re killing
some of it as well but to me it makes sense to just get the ground kind of
shook up hopefully you’ve got some compost that you’ve also tilled in as
you’re doing that so then you’re kind of inoculating some beneficials in there to
help the process get going get those populations of healthy microbes going
and then that’s it then I for me personally I would never till after the
first time I then switch to broad fork and I’m now a year and a half to two
years on most of these beds and now it’s pretty cool I’ve watched my bed’s go
from you know I could only get the broad work in about this much and now I can
get the broad work in all the way to the top bar it’s very smooth and very easy
so I’m getting to the point now where broad forking is starting to become not
as necessary it may even be something I do for specific crops that penetrate
deeper into the ground like carrots or other root crops I probably will
continue to use the broad fork every time I prep the bed through the next
year I’ll see how the soil structure goes and adjust as needed
so then there’s another type of no-till or low till type of gardening and
farming and that’s called no dig so Charles doubting is probably the most
famous for no dig gardening that in back to Eden gardening and those are the two
most famous teachers for no dig and no dig is awesome but no dig doesn’t really
play into the market gardening context very well in my opinion for some crops
it may work out well doing no dig but for what I’m doing
a lot of these quick turnover greens you know 30 day vegetables you got a crop
and crop him out replant you know there’s not I’m not
doing so much transplants and things like that where no dig makes a bit more
sense there are some interesting things you can do where you could leave the old
crop residue behind put a bunch of compost over the top of that residue and
then plant into that compost I don’t have enough compost available to me to
be able to do that method but I think that that’s the most very interesting
method in the market gardening context but let me explain May dig so for know
dig you’re not using a broad fork although those people may do that
sometimes if they need to break the ground a little bit but in a no dig
situation you would harvest the beets or the lettuce take them out add some more
compost and then plant that’s it there is no cultivating of the ground
so usually back to eat in people they’re using mulch all the time
ya know dig is really excellent i if you’re a home gardener that I’d highly
recommend it because the left oil disturbance the better but like I said
in the beginning of your soil development it may not be as possible as
you think to do no dig but after a year of really good soil practices using the
broad fork you can get to the point where you can convert it to no no dig
and you never have to use a tool like this again if you don’t want to I hope
that explaining kind of these different models that people are using helps to
kind of tie it all together for you and you can see that there’s a lot of
different ways to do this and it really matters the context that you’re growing
like are you growing for sale what are you growing for sale you know is this
just for your home garden what’s your soil structure like you know what’s your
weather like there’s so many things that go into this I just want to recommend to
people that you don’t go hardcore on my back to eatin purist or I’m a
permaculturist period and I don’t think any other way and that’s that’s a very
dangerous way of thinking because you’re gonna miss out on some really amazing
ways to do things and it may be a much better way in the short term and
the long-term depending on the scenario so just don’t get too locked into any
type of ideology whether it’s farming or something else because almost all things
in life aren’t black and white and there’s a lot of gray area a lot of
variables that come into play so just keep your mind to open think about
what’s going on what you’re trying to do and then apply it to your context the
best you can okay so now let’s focus on some broad working technique let’s say
that we’ve just lifted this section and now it’s time to lift the fork out and
move it back so the easiest way to do this for the least amount of work don’t
lift it up all the way out of the ground what I’m trying to accomplish is just go
back the same distance as the tines so about 12 inches so I’ll let my times
glide backwards sink in and then I’ll step on it
stepping on it first makes it a lot easier to balance on if you just set the
fork here and then you try to jump up on it whoa
kind of gets crazy so step on it first so it’s easy to balance on and then
depending on your broad fork you’re gonna rock back and forth some broad
Forks allow you to wiggle side to side beat red light broad fork works the best
going forwards and backwards so you can see how easily I just slid right in
there now I’m gonna pull back and stop just getting that little bit of lift and
I’m not going any further if I was to continue I’ll just show you what will
happen you see how it breaks apart like that
now what’s ending up happening is it’s having a more of a similar effect to
tilling actually breaking apart all that soil but the thing with the broad fork
never does it’s never compacting the ground the thing about the tiller is
that the rotational energy of those blades it’s actually when the blades
come down it’s actually compacting subsoil
and tailors are usually not 30 inches wide so that heavy machine is now
sitting on your bed also compacting the ground and compaction and soil can kind
of cause dead zones where microbes and fungi can’t live it affects the way the
water infiltrates through the ground as well so if there’s a compaction spot the
water will literally just go around it and not even give water to that area
because there’s not enough space for the water to fill so once again just lift
let it drag back back done if you start seeing the ground start following a part
of unch just stop once you got the lift that’s all you need when I prep my beds
I lay out my new compost before I broad fork and the reason I do it that way is
so that when I’m broad forking and I lift the ground up a little bit of that
compost is gonna seep in there and inoculate lower sections of the soil add
nutrients down in there that the microbes can start breaking down for me
and so that’s why I do it that way you could do it the other way around you
could brought for work and then you can do the compost last that’s fine too
another thing I’ll say I know that some people you’ll see a lot of people in
line they’ll shove the broad fork into the ground like that I’ve read that that
actually can cause some compaction doing it that way it kind of makes sense if
you just throw this down to the ground it stops right in and locks it you know
maybe that’s happening but the main reason I guess to not shove it into the
ground is that it’s a lot more effort to do it that way it’s much easier to just
barely pull it out let it glide and then just use your bodyweight the whole time
and you’re just gonna it’s gonna be a lot less effort for you and you’re gonna
save your body I have found in certain scenarios with really hard dirt it does
make sense to kind of jam it in first and then step on it
and drink on it but it really kind of depends on your soil structure but in
general Dusit this technique that I showed you using all body weight it’s
much much easier and then as far as your handles go I step off before I pull it
down to here so that I’m able to get my hands to the other side and then I’ll
push down and I’ll use my body weight do that and then to always be sure that
when you’re pulling down you’re grabbing the tops of these bars this is gonna
give you the most leverage and strength pulling from here it’s not going to be
as strong for you top you know I’m leaning back too I’m trying to use my
body weight so I’m not using all of my muscles back get over the top of it I
let my bodyweight push down that’s a super good workout
so the next thing I’ll mention is the width of the broadfork now for my
experience I’ve tried out many different brands of broad forks I’ve tried
different sizes and it’s now my opinion that broad works for a thirty inch bed
should actually be smaller than thirty inches this is a 24 inch wide broad fork
I noticed this after using my 30 inch broad fork for a long time that when
it’s a whole 30 inches and you pull it back the ground actually breaks about
two inches from the side of the furthest time so as you can see here that’s where
the tine is but look where the ground is broken it’s broken all along here so if
you’re actually getting lift a bit outside of there so on a 30 inch broad
fork I was actually getting lift in my compacted pathways and what that does is
put more stress on the tool and more stress on me because it’s gonna be more
effort to lift compacted ground in my next video
I’m gonna compare the three best brands of broad Forks and that
help you make a better decision on which one you want to buy but I want to
explain the fact that I I really think that less than 30 inches is ideal and in
my opinion 24 to about 27 inches is what you’re looking for and that would be
excellent for a 30-inch bed so here’s another tip on broad forking if you get
stuck sometimes you’ll hit a rock on one side one side will be drier than the
other side or harder than the other side for whatever reason so if that happens
to you and let’s just say let’s say the right side is going down a lot easier
you’re going you’re you’re standing on it really balanced but the right side is
sinking in way faster what you should do move all your weight to the side that’s
having an issue and then wiggle back and forth and then do you see how it
balanced itself out really quickly like that that’s all you got to do now let’s
say you hit a rock and that little trick I just showed you is not working you’re
not sinking down deeper still then what you might need to do so if you picture
the rock is here hopefully it’s a smaller rock than this but my fingers
are the tines so you keep trying to push down the rocks in the way right so what
you can try to do is Rock the handles a much further so that the times will kind
of scoop and go under it so that kind of looks like this so I would just rock it
way more forward way more fact you can even stand off of the rock work and
really rock it and that almost all the time gets me around the rock and if you
still can’t get it around the rock then just lift the broadfork up go back or
forward a couple inches and you’ll probably miss it and then after you
broad four if you’re not going to prep and plant your bed right away don’t
leave the holes exposed from the broad forking just come with a rake and rake
back and forth one time is to fill in all those holes because those holes you
know as sunlight and air is able to hit that it’s killing biology so get that
subsoil covered as soon as possible after broad
forking and here’s another tip on broad working to
make it easier on yourself in the summer when the ground is a lot drier or if you
live in a dry climate where there’s no rain for many months the ground is gonna
get dry the subsoil is gonna get dry and then it makes it really hard to
broadfork so something I like to do before I prep my beds I’ll run my drip
lines for like thirty minutes to an hour depending on how dry they are to soak
the bed I do this after I’ve removed the previous crop then I’ll come in and
broadfork it wet ground is so much easier to broadfork on so keep that in
mind also if you’re working with dry ground it’s just and it feels kind of
impossible usually when heavy clay soil when that gets dry it’s super hard
almost like concrete okay let’s talk healthy soil here what
does healthy soil even look like I’ve gotten a soil test done on my soil after
I’ve developed it for a while and my soil is excellent my soil organic
matters at five percent now all my nutrients are high my water infiltration
is high the soil scientists described my soil as loam which this was not loam to
begin with it was clay so what you’re looking for in good soil now you see
when I’m breaking this apart they’ll kind of see these small smaller little
balls kind of fall off and this is called soil aggregates so the
microorganisms and the fungi they create this glue that’s actually pulling
together the sand silt and clay the organic matter and forming it together
so you’re in you’re seeing soil break apart like this there’s not some random
big chunk of clay it’s you’re noticing it’s very consistent right there’s not
different layers of soil it’s it’s now become sort of one layer and it’s all
this same really nice soil aggregate so soil like this the water can infiltrate
really well plants roots have more availability of nutrients and oxygen so
I hope this helps you kind of see what some healthy soil looks like and acts
like and you’re noticing also that it’s it’s holding moisture super well like I
can almost fold this into a little ball so it’s full of moisture but it’s not
dripping wet so there’s still oxygen in this and it’s
staying aerobic even though it rained recently and this ground is super soaked
okay let’s go take a look at some dirt that hasn’t been touched in a very long
time so we can have some comparison we’re in my neighbor’s yard right now
this is an area that I walk around in a lot this is an area that’s never had
good soil or garden soil it’s just had grass and weeds growing here for many
years okay so here’s that soil lifted up here’s kind of the first six to eight
inches of it and if we look we can see the grass you can see more towards the
top here it’s almost more blacker dirt you can see like kind of the different
layers of soil here this I can tell has more clay in it this is a actual ball of
clay and if you look inside it’s clay so this soil is not too bad so this is
pretty similar to the soil that I started with you know I’m finding you
just find huge chunks of clay in there so here’s a piece of my market garden
soil so if you see mine it’s kind of break it if I just squeeze it a little really falls apart
really breaks apart into little fine particles very easily if I take a chunk
off this one it’s got good root structure it’s doing good this is pretty
healthy soil actually over here when I go to squeeze it and break it apart much
more clay content in here it’s holding together much more strongly things
aren’t breaking apart into those finer particles as much there’s some more clay
see that falls apart in these bigger chunks anyways
just trying to show you kind of some differences but it’s cool to see that my
soil has changed quite a bit I’ve no longer find these giant chunks of clay
anymore my soil color is really nice now the source itself is no longer
stratified really it’s kind of all one big chunk of really good soil structure
alright so that’s gonna be it for today’s video on no-till the proper
broad forking technique lots of tips and lots of soil health discussion in there
as well we really hope that helped you guys out please leave any comments that
you have in the description I love to answer any
questions that you guys have or clarify something for you if you’re interested
in going deeper into this world of soil health and soil science and kind of
understanding more of the details of what’s going on with your plants and the
soil itself I highly recommend watching some different talks by Elaine Ingham
she’s a very famous soil scientist also Gabe brown is another great no-till soil
health farmer you know check out those two people and you’ll kind of go into a
whole world of soil science oh and Geoff lowenfeld
as well is amazing please be sure to like this video and share it with
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everyone who has donated and helped support me in my mission of teaching as
many people to farm and garden as possible and help create the new natural
modern food system alright everybody thank you so much for watching I hope
you learned a lot about soil science in this episode I love it I obsessed with
it and I hope that you will become as well alright guys see you next one bye

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