Embracing benefits of no-till gardening | Home & Garden

“I have more and more herbs that are perennial,” she said. This palette of perennials might also extend to strawberries, horseradish, lovage and asparagus.

“For the first two years, I struggled with getting it where I wanted,” she said. But now, 10 years on, “the soil is so fluffy, I really don’t have to add anything to it.”

New gardeners arrive and become overwhelmed by the relentlessness of weeds, she said, especially after a summer vacation or longer hiatus.

“It’s one of the main reasons for the turnover” of gardeners, she said. Pridgen uses cover crops to block weeds and feed the soil; daikon radishes work to open up the soil without digging, and legumes, such as vetch and clover, add nitrogen to the soil. “I have had a lot of good harvests over the years,” she said.

At Lederer Gardens, a communal farm and community garden in Northeast Washington, the gardeners have initiated a no-till system this year. Rows 100 feet long and more than three feet wide rise amid earthen aisles, and the beds are now full of tomatoes, winter squash, corn, okra and bush beans. In one stretch, strawberry plants act as a ground cover between collard greens.

To create the garden, the old beds were cultivated down 12 inches with a heavy steel tool named a broadfork — essentially an implement with curving tines between two tall handles. The tool is pressed into the ground with your foot, then rocked back and forth, opening the soil without disturbing the surface. The beds were then raised another 12 inches with a mix of topsoil and compost.