• No-Till Garden Beds By Hand With A Broadfork

    by  • August 7, 2014 • Featured, Gardening & Pets • 3 Comments

    garden bed before

    You’ve pulled out your summer crops. Now what? It’s time to prepare the beds for a fall crop, cover, or mulch before winter.

    I use a broadfork and Garden Claw to gently aerate and cultivate the soil. No-till methods like this are found to enhance the productivity of the soil, and besides, tillers are jerky, smoky, heavy pieces of equipment to wield.

    If needed, I start by pulling large weeds by hand. I try to not let beds get too weedy but sometimes it happens, as you can see in the sunny early-morning garlic bed pictured above.

    using a broadforkno-till broadforkingbroadfork no-till garden bed

    I begin working the soil with a broadfork borrowed from City Folk’s Farm Shop. I plunge the tines into the soil and gently press down on the cross bar. Then I rock the broadfork back to lift the soil gently as I pull the broadfork out. I don’t turn the soil here, I just use the tines to aerate sections.

    Next I quickly rotate a Garden Claw (available for purchase at City Folk’s) to the right and left over the surface of the whole bed. The point of the claw is to break up large clods and loosen any smaller weeds. I keep movements gentle here so as to not compact the soil.

    using garden fork

    Before I plant seeds or transplants, I go back over the bed with a hand cultivator or rake to remove the loosened weed roots and/or smooth the soil into rows. As needed, I add compost and/or organic fertilizer to build the nutrient potential. At all times I maintain the edges of the bed, piling up loose soil back onto the center as needed.

    garden bed after no-till

    I’ve seen the results of this no-till, hand-powered method at Swainway Urban Farm, where the naturally raised beds are now so loamy you can plunge your hands in the soil with almost no resistance. I love the quiet, gentle work of using hand tools to re-build my beds between seasons.

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. My favorite color is purple, my favorite vegetable is whatever is fresh and local, and my favorite drink is whatever you're pouring. Follow me @racheltayse


    3 Responses to No-Till Garden Beds By Hand With A Broadfork

    1. August 8, 2014 at 9:50 am

      I have a couple of garden buddies that swear by the “no-till’ method. Not sure I have been convinced. I still once a year go in to the garden with a big ol gas tiller. Also, our soil has a lot of clay and I just don’t feel a hand till breaks that mess up to make it good for planting.

      My summer garden has been pulled out and I am inpatiently waiting to plant the fall crop.

      Hope you had a great summer.


    2. John Starkie
      May 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      My raised vegetable beds are 4′ wide by about 20′ long, and have never been ploughed, tilled, dug or hoed.
      I can’t help thinking that your use of the broadfork and claw damage the worms, mycorhiza and soil structure as much as digging or tilling would?

    3. Dar gute
      August 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      This is great. Thank you for the method info.

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