We look at this deep dive into no-dig gardening and the benefits of this approach. Written by Jesse Frost and published by Chelsea Green, see more about the book here.
The Living Soil Handbook The No-Till Grower’s Guide to Ecological Market Gardening, reviewed
The more we learn about gardening and growing plants, the more we discover about the complexity and intricacy of what is happening below the surface. On one hand, once you understand that no-dig, or no-till in the US, means exactly that, you might that that is all there is to know. Frost however is a passionate and positive advocate for explaining in even more detail why it is beneficial, for both the land and your produce to work in this way.
Inside the book there is a section on mulch, and various types of compost, and the many varieties of organic matter that you can add to your soil to help improve it’s fertility. It also offers the opportunity to close the loop in terms of organic matter that passes through our lives and our daily actions, which otherwise often ends up in landfill. Equally no-dig is a less physical proposition than churning up your raised beds every year, so you might just want to do it for the ease of working this way, rather than any wider ideological reasons. Either way there are lots of good insights and tips to help better inform your actions.
The book also covers mulches, paths, fertility, transplanting and interplanting, and then finally an in-depth look at seven key crops that generally grow well and can provide a decent return on your efforts. There are also useful and informative images and illustrations to help exemplify the points he is making. It complements his podcast well and you may well find it a useful addition to your gardening books.
More about the book ->
Principles and farm-tested practices for no-till market gardening–for healthier, more productive soil!
From the host of the popular The No-Till Market Garden Podcast—heard around the world with nearly one million downloads!
Discovering how to meet the soil’s needs is the key task for every market gardener. In this comprehensive guide, Farmer Jesse Frost shares all he has learned through experience and experimentation with no-till practices on his home farm in Kentucky and from interviews and visits with highly successful market gardeners in his role as host of The No-Till Market Garden Podcast.
The Living Soil Handbook is centered around the three basic principles of no-till market gardening:
- Disturb the soil as little as possible
- Keep it covered as much as possible
- Keep it planted as much as possible.
Farmer Jesse then guides readers in applying those principles to their own garden environment, with their own materials, to meet their own goals.
Beginning with an exploration of the importance of photosynthesis to living soil, Jesse provides in-depth information on:
- Turning over beds
- Using compost and mulch
- Path management
- Incorporating biology, maintaining fertility
- Cover cropping
- Diversifying plantings through intercropping
- Production methods for seven major crops
Throughout, the book emphasizes practical information on all the best tools and practices for growers who want to build their livelihood around maximizing the health of their soil.
Farmer Jesse reminds growers that “as possible” is the mantra for protecting the living soil: disturb the soil as little as you possibly can in your context. He does not believe that growers should anguish over what does and does not qualify as “no-till.” If you are using a tool to promote soil life and biology, that’s the goal. Jesse’s goal with The Living Soil Handbook is to provide a comprehensive set of options, materials, and field-tested practices to inspire growers to design a soil-nurturing no-till system in their unique garden or farm ecosystem.
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About Jesse Frost
Jesse Frost, aka Farmer Jesse, is a certified organic market gardener, freelance journalist, and the host of The No-Till Market Garden Podcast. He is also a cofounder of notillgrowers.com, where he helps collect the best and latest no-till insights from growers in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Europe. He and his wife, Hannah Crabtree, practice no-till farming at Rough Draft Farmstead in central Kentucky.
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