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Old 03-05-2012, 09:04 PM   #1
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If you haven't heard of no-dig gardening, check it out at http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.co...-a-garden.html

I thought I'd give it a shot this year for growing hops. I planted 3 rhizomes last year but decided to plant 12 this year. Since digging beds for three plants was exhausting enough, I thought why not try an easier way which is better for the environment?

My local nursery stopped carrying manure so I went with just straw and leaf compost. Put down a layer of newspapers, a layer of straw, a layer of compost, and a bit more straw in a 20x5 area. I watered it and put a tarp over the entire thing to speed up the biological processes and keep the stuff from blowing away.

In a month when my rhizomes come in, I'll add a layer of soil and some Dr. Earth and plant them. Has anyone else tried this? I thought maybe some people would be interested. My back hurts today but I can't even imagine the pain I'd be in after digging a 20x5 bed.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:47 PM   #2
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Next to the "no-dig" moniker, there's a lot of info on the interweb if you search "lasagna gardening." Like BIAB, the lasagna is popular down under, so I hear. I've used a modified version when I set up deep, raised beds on grass. Instead of tilling up all the lawn, I'll drop down some cardboard first, some compost, some newspaper, grass clippings, soil, etc, in alternating lasagna-like layers. The cardboard (or several sheets of newspaper) will smother the grass and its root system and eventually will break down to let your bed plants take over. The layers will decompose and lead to improved soil underneath. It really is a back saver but not quite as foolproof as the old-fashioned, back-breaking way, imo.

 
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Old 03-06-2012, 12:18 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cram View Post
It really is a back saver but not quite as foolproof as the old-fashioned, back-breaking way, imo.
Why is that?
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Old 03-06-2012, 03:31 AM   #4
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Taking time to dig up and work the land helps to aerate it and helps break up nearby roots (i.e., competition), and these aren't achieved through the no-dig method. Honestly, though, in the right spot, I think it's the way to go. Part of my problem was that I didn't do enough take care of the grass growing on the side of my beds, so it eventually found its way in. And the spot was right next to a mulberry tree, so there was some hefty roots in the area. Digging deeper would have allowed me to aerate the soil more and eliminate some of the roots. Done right and done deep, the no-dig, lasagna gardening has a lot of potential for improving soil, water retention, and labor...

 
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cram View Post
Taking time to dig up and work the land helps to aerate it and helps break up nearby roots (i.e., competition), and these aren't achieved through the no-dig method. Honestly, though, in the right spot, I think it's the way to go. Part of my problem was that I didn't do enough take care of the grass growing on the side of my beds, so it eventually found its way in. And the spot was right next to a mulberry tree, so there was some hefty roots in the area. Digging deeper would have allowed me to aerate the soil more and eliminate some of the roots. Done right and done deep, the no-dig, lasagna gardening has a lot of potential for improving soil, water retention, and labor...
Cool, good to hear. We'll see how it goes. I'll update this thread as time goes on. I just can't imagine if I had done a normal bed that big. I almost pulled a nail out of my finger and I feel like someone beat me up in my sleep.
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:00 AM   #6
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My cousin uses old fridges from the dump for all his raised gardening (A must in Fairbanks). He guts the innards, removes the doors, lays them on their back, and plants different things in the different compartments. He's moderately crippled so this sort of gardening is easier on his old bones.

Yes, his garden is covered (12-15 full sized reefers) but they are all in rows so it's a neat appearance, aside from the obvious "oh my god, he's hoarding fridgerators".
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Old 03-07-2012, 02:27 AM   #7
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Reefer? Not sure what that is but it definitely got my attention.

 
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Old 03-07-2012, 08:18 PM   #8
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..just guessing that "reefers" refers to refridgerators, though I've heard Alaska is pretty lenient. Building large hop mounds is sort of the same as no dig, right?

 
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Old 03-08-2012, 06:52 AM   #9
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No-dig and lasagna gardening are popular right now, but it isn't clear to me how their effect on soil is any different from tilling.

In no-dig gardening, your goal is to create rich loose topsoil above existing compacted turf. You typically lay down some sort of degradable barrier to help retain surface moisture and to prevent weed seeds from growing. Then you cover with loose topsoil and compost.

In traditional till gardening, you seek to convert the existing compacted turf into rich loose topsoil -- the same type of soil that you ship in to cover existing soil when practicing no-till.

Both techniques seek to address the same problem: our food crops have been grown in tilled soil since the neolithic revolution, sometime between 7-10,000 years ago. Our food crops are adapted to tilled conditions, and they will no longer thrive in compacted turf or a forest floor the way their ancestors may have. Why have humans been tilling the soil all these millenia anyway? Didn't they know about no-till? Well, most plants grow better when they are free of competitors.

As a result, our food crops have now become adapted to tilled conditions, and they kind of suck at growing in compacted turf or leaf litter as their ancestors did. One way or another, you need to recreate tilled conditions for food crops to thrive. You can either till, or buy a bunch of topsoil / compost to simulate tilling.

No-till advocates frequently claim that tilling disturbs the microbial ecosystem, but I've never seen any actual evidence that this is the case. In fact, scientists are just now in the past 5 years beginning to know all the individual bacteria that make up microbial ecosystems. We are very far away from knowing what makes a soil microbial ecosystem healthy or unhealthy. Nobody knows which species even to look for.

Maybe no-till advocates use some other heuristic to diagnose "healthy" vs. "unhealthy" soils? Or maybe there is some indicator of the environment being "bad" in tilled conditions? I don't know.

Anyway, if you enjoy no-till gardening, go for it. It works, and it's fun. But don't think that what you're doing is "better for the environment". Our understanding of soil microecosystems is so basic that we simply cannot know. Remember, this isn't like climate change, where you have physical quantities that are easy to measure, or even the effect of fertilizer runoff, which is drastic. The argument for no-till agriculture is subtle, and in my opinion, relies heavily on ill-defined ideas of what the "natural" state of agriculture used to be.

 
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Old 03-08-2012, 07:28 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drummstikk View Post
No-dig and lasagna gardening are popular right now, but it isn't clear to me how their effect on soil is any different from tilling.

In no-dig gardening, your goal is to create rich loose topsoil above existing compacted turf. You typically lay down some sort of degradable barrier to help retain surface moisture and to prevent weed seeds from growing. Then you cover with loose topsoil and compost.

In traditional till gardening, you seek to convert the existing compacted turf into rich loose topsoil -- the same type of soil that you ship in to cover existing soil when practicing no-till.

Both techniques seek to address the same problem: our food crops have been grown in tilled soil since the neolithic revolution, sometime between 7-10,000 years ago. Our food crops are adapted to tilled conditions, and they will no longer thrive in compacted turf or a forest floor the way their ancestors may have. Why have humans been tilling the soil all these millenia anyway? Didn't they know about no-till? Well, most plants grow better when they are free of competitors.

As a result, our food crops have now become adapted to tilled conditions, and they kind of suck at growing in compacted turf or leaf litter as their ancestors did. One way or another, you need to recreate tilled conditions for food crops to thrive. You can either till, or buy a bunch of topsoil / compost to simulate tilling.

No-till advocates frequently claim that tilling disturbs the microbial ecosystem, but I've never seen any actual evidence that this is the case. In fact, scientists are just now in the past 5 years beginning to know all the individual bacteria that make up microbial ecosystems. We are very far away from knowing what makes a soil microbial ecosystem healthy or unhealthy. Nobody knows which species even to look for.

Maybe no-till advocates use some other heuristic to diagnose "healthy" vs. "unhealthy" soils? Or maybe there is some indicator of the environment being "bad" in tilled conditions? I don't know.

Anyway, if you enjoy no-till gardening, go for it. It works, and it's fun. But don't think that what you're doing is "better for the environment". Our understanding of soil microecosystems is so basic that we simply cannot know. Remember, this isn't like climate change, where you have physical quantities that are easy to measure, or even the effect of fertilizer runoff, which is drastic. The argument for no-till agriculture is subtle, and in my opinion, relies heavily on ill-defined ideas of what the "natural" state of agriculture used to be.
I understand ya, brother. I'm a total pragmatist when it comes to these things. I only tried this method because making such a large bed without any assistance would have been hell. However, I kill plenty of worms with my shovel blade. I know I disturb my lawn when I cut it to ribbons and haul it away. I'm not saying it is a lot better for the environment, but it's somewhat better. As a point of reference, when the Japanese beetles got bad I nuked them with Sevin. I care about the environment, but in the grand scheme of things little old me is already way ahead of the game, anyways. I recycle beer bottles.
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