Sattin Hill Market Farming Course Module 6: No-Till & Living Soil (FSFS244)

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Episode Summary

This episode of Farm Small Farm Smart features the sixth module in the Sattin Hill Market Farming Course, where Josh Sattin talks about what no-till is and why he chose to go no-till on his farm, as well as why and how we can maintain a healthy, living soil in our farms.

Today’s Guest: Josh Sattin

Josh Sattin is a farmer at Sattin Hill Farm in Raleigh, North North Carolina. As an educator and professional videographer, Josh has published hundreds of educational farming videos on his YouTube to help make a difference in the local farming and foodscape.

            Josh Sattin – YouTube | Instagram | Website

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • (Not) defining no-till and no-till practices (01:16)
    • Defining tillage (01:42)
  • The most beneficial reason to go no-till (03:24)
  • Other beneficial reasons why you should consider going no-till (04:27)
  • Growing crops on living soil (06:09)
  • The four major principles of creating living soil (07:48)
    • Keep the soil covered (08:08)
    • Keep the soil planted (08:58)
    • Disturb the soil as little as possible (09:24)
    • Create diversity as much as possible (10:00)
  • Maintaining living soil (10:40)
  • Josh’s fertility program (12:21)
  • Different approaches to fertility (14:20)
  • How Josh flips his beds (15:00)
    • Leaving roots in the ground (16:19)
    • How to use the broadfork quickly (20:03)
    • Bringing up weed seeds (21:20)
    • Putting down amendments into the beds (22:28)
    • Using the tilther on the soil and keeping in mind its nuances (24:27)
    • A tilther safety tip (26:57)
  • Planting with roots in the ground (29:30)
  • Flipping beds after harvesting baby greens (30:26)
  • Recapping the module (32:05)

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FSFS244 (SHFC #6)

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to Farm Small Farm Smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. Today's a special episode of Farm Small Farm Smart as we continue our Sattin Hill Farm Course with farmer Josh Sattin. It's module six: no-till growing practices and living soil. If you wanna watch this module, you can do so on Josh's YouTube channel, which I've linked to below.

[00:00:26] And if you wanna find more resources on this module and all the other modules, you can do so at paperpot.co/josh or using the link below now. Let's jump right into it, Josh Sattin on no-till practices and living soil.

[00:00:45] Josh Sattin: Welcome to module six of the Sattin hill farm course. This module is all about no-till practices and living soil. And before we get into it today, I just have to have a huge thanks to our sponsor, Paperpot Co. Without the help of Diego and Paperpot Co., this entire course wouldn't be possible. And more on them later.

[00:01:01] In this module, we can be talking about what is no-till, why I practice no-till, the principles of creating and maintaining living soil, amendments and fertility, and then I'll show you this in practice by showing you how I prepare or flip a bed.

[00:01:17] I don't really like to define no-till because really, no-till encompasses a lot of different techniques, approaches, and styles of growing and farming. And there's a lot of things that are in no-till. And I don't like the term itself because it's defined by a negative, but there is some truth in it. And let's kind of go through that a little bit here as I sort of broadly talk about what no-till is.

[00:01:37] No-till or no-tillage. Tillage is something that's going to cause harm to the soil. And so that's really what we're gonna focusing on is make our soil better over time and not making it worse over time. And I think a lot of people think that if I don't till, then I'm no-till and technically, I guess you're right.

[00:01:55] But what defines tillage�I know like a lot of people are kind of up in the air about like, as a broad fork, as tilther, different things and techniques like are those no-till? I don't stress about all that stuff. And I really want to stress to you that you need to not be dogmatic about your approaches.

[00:02:11] So if you are kind of where I am now, or maybe you're behind a little bit or further ahead than what I'm doing or whatever, wherever you are on the spectrum of all this, stuff don't be dogmatic about it. I've even said that I recommend that you till your ground before you get started, if you need to.

[00:02:27] And I think if you're really dogmatic about it and you take a never-till approach, these are all things that we can use as tools and ways to make our soil better for the long term. Now, you don't have to go all in on no-till at the beginning. So if you're converting from a tillage farm to wanting to go no-till, then don't think that you just stop tilling and all of your problems go away.

[00:02:47] You're gonna have other problems you're gonna have to deal with. And if you wanna make that conversion, go through the steps of tarping and all that stuff that I recommended in the previous module and maybe not convert the whole farm at once, because if you're making your livelihood and your family income on your farm, and you're experimenting with a new technique, don't just go all in, like try an area for a season or a summer or something like that and get used to it before you convert the whole farm.

[00:03:09] So you don't have to be dogmatic about every little thing with no-till. And I think everyone wants to jump in there and get defensive or point out criticism about some other person's technique. The main idea here is making the soil better.

[00:03:23] Now let's talk about why you might wanna go no-till. And some of the reasons that I do it personally, and I think the biggest thing, which I sort of talked about in the last module was weed control. Now, if you tarp your ground and build your beds and all that stuff, like I mentioned, you will really not have weeds on your farm or very minimal amount of weeds on your farm.

[00:03:41] Now, if you just left the ground bare, things will start growing. You guys know this. If you clear an area and just wait, like, things will grow. There are seeds in the ground, and they want to grow. And so when we kill everything and not disturb the soil, those weed�those seeds in the ground don't have a chance to come up to the surface and grow.

[00:03:58] But when we go through and rototiller or plow, we�re bringing those seeds up to the surface, they germinate and grow. If you think about a traditional tillage farm, where they come through and they plow before they plant, they do the plowing, they make their beds, and then they plant, and a few weeks later, they have a flush of weeds, and they're cultivating for the rest of the season.

[00:04:14] Now we can avoid that whole thing by just not tilling and not bring those seeds up to the surface. And they don't germinate cuz they're underground and they're not disturbed. So I think weed control is probably one of the most practical reasons to go no-till. Now, a lot of the things about no-till are not just practical, but they're also beneficial for the soil.

[00:04:31] And that's a huge part of what we're gonna be talking about here. And one thing is keeping the carbon in the ground. I know a lot of us know about carbon sequestration, and we're trying to keep carbon in the ground. But when we go through and till, we are breaking up all of the roots and stuff like that, and it becomes oxidized, turns into CO2, and we're letting that carbon escape from the earth.

[00:04:50] So if we leave the stuff in the ground and not till, we're leaving the carbon in the ground, and that's a huge part of what we're doing here, and we'll talk more about leaving the roots in the ground and all that kind of stuff. Now, the other part is, I know I'm in tunnels, but if you're growing in the field, if you are doing no-till, you're not relying on a tractor to come through and prepare your beds, you can literally go out time of the year.

[00:05:08] Well, weather permitting, but you don't have to wait for it to be super dry. I know in tractor-based farms, where they rely on a tractor to prepare their beds, they can't go out if it's too wet and muddy and all that kind of stuff, but you can kind of just go out whenever you want and plant, I think that's a huge benefit.

[00:05:22] We're gonna focus completely on soil health, that's the main reason that we do no-till and personally, I do not use any pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides. That's a decision that I made personally about my farming practices early. I do lose some crops from time to time, and you know, there's some things you have to�

[00:05:40] Yeah, there's some things you have to work around with that�with that approach. I don't know about that stuff, I've never used it. I'm not saying that it's bad. I'm just�if something�if you're putting something there that's gonna try to kill a bug or kill a weed or something like that, like, it's gonna kill something else.

[00:05:55] And so I just avoid that altogether, but like I said before, don't be dogmatic. If you need to save something and you need to do something different, that's totally up to you, especially if your family is relying on that income. So, as I said, we'll be focusing on soil health and creating living soil. And what I've noticed about farms that focus on living soil is not only do their crops look better, but they taste better.

[00:06:15] And I think that's a big part of it because there's this interaction between the plants and the microbes and the soil. And what's going on there is that when the plants are growing and photosynthesizing, they're putting out their root exudates, right? They're putting carbon and sugars into the ground, and they're trading that with the microbes in the soil.

[00:06:34] And when that happens, they are able to pick up nutrients and other minerals and stuff like that that's in the ground that the microbes make in a form that's available for the plants to take up. And if the microbes aren't there, and you don't have living soil, then the crops you're growing won't get those nutrients in minerals.

[00:06:53] And this is the case with a lot of conventionally growing food. Like, you look at broccoli in the store, and it looks like broccoli, but you eat it, and it doesn't have much flavor. And that's because a lot of that stuff is grown in soil that's not really alive, right?

[00:07:07] It has all the main things that needs to grow and look like broccoli, but it's�they�re not having those reactions in the soil to gain those nutrients and minerals and stuff like that. Now, a lot of that stuff's in the ground already, but it's not in a form that the plant can take up. So we have this great relationship between the plant roots and the microbes.

[00:07:24] The microbes are like, gimme the carbon, and the plants are like, hey, gimme those nutrients. And when that happens, you get this food that just tastes better. And I've really noticed this on my farm. And especially visiting other farms and tasting food from all over the place, you really do�you could really tell a difference when it's grown in living soil. So let's get onto talking about living soil.

[00:07:47] Now let's go through the four major principles of creating living soil. And I think if you keep these in mind as you make decisions on your farm about strategies and approaches and tools and all that kind of stuff, you will get to having living soil. So here are the four principles: keep the soil covered.

[00:08:02] Keep the soil planted, disturb the soil as little as possible, and create diversity as much as possible. And we'll go through each one. So the first one, keep the soil covered. This one is to protect the soil. Now, the soil is our biggest asset on the farm, and we wanna do whatever we can to protect the biology and all the organic matter and all that stuff.

[00:08:19] So one way that I do that is by using tunnels and I know I talk about them a lot, but the idea of the tunnel is really just covering the soil and protecting it from heavy rains and wind and things like that. We want to, as I said, keep all organic matter on the ground and facilitate all of the biological life that's in the soil.

[00:08:37] So in a practical sense, besides tunnels, what are some other ways to do this? The best way is by keeping it full of plants. So keeping it covered with�with plants. So either cash crops or cover crops. And we'll talk about more of that in a second, but also if you don't have anything growing in there, you can cover it with like landscape fabric or tarp, or maybe some other mulch.

[00:08:55] So anything to keep the soil covered and protected is super important. Keeping the soil planted. Now, the reason for this, we wanna make sure we have photosynthesis going on because when we have photosynthesis going on, those plants are pushing carbons into the ground. And when we do that, like I mentioned before, we're feeding the microbiology in the soil.

[00:09:13] So this could be a cash crop. It could be a cover crop, but anytime you have plants growing, and you have photosynthesis happening, that's when we're feeding the soil and keeping it alive, so that's super important. Disturbing as little as possible, I think this really comes down to the heart of no-till, there�s much going on in the soil when it comes to fungal life.

[00:09:31] Earth worms, all the carbon we already mentioned, like all the things that we don't really even understand about soil practices. We wanna leave it undisturbed as much as possible. And let nature kind of do its thing. We wanna facilitate the biological activity and kind of just get outta the way. So disturbing it as little as possible is super important.

[00:09:47] And I think over time, as you create better and better soil after you�ve gone through major disturbances to facilitate no-till practices, you have to disturb it even less. And I'll get to that even today when I talk about how I prepare my beds.

[00:09:58] Creating diversity as much as possible is super important. This is a challenge on market gardens because we're growing so many you know, we're�we're growing rows and rows of vegetables and that's not natural in nature. Nature's full of diversity. So I do that by every other bed is something different, incorporating hedgerows around the farm and just bring in wildlife pollinators, beneficial insects, birds, all that kind of stuff, but creating diversity not just in what you're planting, but also what's around the farm.

[00:10:28] And also, I mentioned wood chips, already. Wood chips create diversity in the soil as well. So anything you do to help diversity is super important to creating living soil.

[00:10:39] As vegetable growers, we're constantly exporting vegetables off of our farm. And as we're exporting vegetables off of our farm, we're also exporting nutrients in minerals and all the other stuff that helps plants grow, taste good, and be really nutritious. So as we are growing and selling our vegetables, we need to constantly be replenishing the ground with those things.

[00:10:57] And we're doing that not only to feed the plants that we're growing, but also feed the soil and make sure we're maintaining living soil. And so there's a lot of approaches with this, but if you take a conventional fertilizer, and you put it out in the ground, the plants will grow. They'll have what they need to grow, but we won't be facilitating the soil life and all the stuff we just talked about.

[00:11:18] So with that in mind, we're gonna be using natural fertilizers. And the thing about natural fertilizers that are different is that they're not in a form that are readily available for the plant to uptake and use. And that's where the microbiology comes into play.

[00:11:29] That living soil will turn all these natural fertilizers into a form that the plants can uptake, and that's why we need to focus on having living soil. Anytime that you can incorporate a waste stream into your fertility program, I think, is also a benefit as a�as a regenerative farm. So here we have a lot of chicken facilities, so I use feather meal in my fertilizer blend, which I'll get to in a second.

[00:11:50] And that's a waste stream. That's like the chickens are getting processed, there's all the feathers. It's a great nitrogen addition. So with that in mind, the fertilizer that�that I use that blend�it's not gonna be perfect for everybody and you may not have access to all the ingredients and that's okay.

[00:12:06] I would ask your local farm store or something like that if you are looking for substitutes. I'm not an expert in all these ingredients. I had a friend help me with this mix, and it's been working really well for me this, in 2021, so I'm gonna continue using it again this year. So in my fertility program, on every bed flip, they're all prepared the same way.

[00:12:25] The first thing I do is I add five buckets of compost, five five-gallon buckets of compost for�and all my beds are 30 inches by 50 feet, so my standard beds are�here, they're 48, but might as well just call 'em 50. And then I use. Three and a half pounds of my fertilizer blend. And I got all of my ingredients from my local farm store.

[00:12:44] So what you can get available where you are is probably different. And as I said, this may not be the perfect mix, but this is what I've been using, and it's been working out pretty well for me. So in this mix, I have 25% fish meal, 25% alfalfa meal, 25% feather meal, 15% kelp, 5% biochar and 5% humic acid. That's the mix. I'll leave that all down below, so you don't have to take notes.

[00:13:07] You can read that. But what I do is I mix up a whole bunch of this at a time in this, like, this bin over here, and I use a cement mixer and just mix all that up. I did a batch of, I don't know, a hundred, 150 pounds at a time. You just buy a bunch of bags, you mix it up, and you're good for a while. And then I just measure out what I need per bed.

[00:13:27] As I said, three and a half pounds of this per bed. And that's what I've been using on every bed flip. Now, the cost of this, I think a lot of people are concerned about this and I don't know why, but for me, I just figured it out. So the amendments, I think it's about $3.50 to $4 for this per bed.

[00:13:42] And I'm not buying this in huge scales. I'm buying like 50-pound bags of the�of the different amendments and mixing it up myself. So three up to $4 for the fertilizer blend. The compost, as I said, it's five five-gallon buckets. It's about $3.75 or so based on getting $30 per yard compost. So in total, I'd say it's about $7.50 cents in fertilizer cost per bed. And that's nothing when you start thinking about the yields that you get outta these beds, so I just wanna go through the amendments that I use and sort of some of the approach and thought process behind it. Remember: with natural amendment, you're not just feeding what you're growing now. You're feeding things in the future.

[00:14:20] Now, as I said, there's a lot of approaches to fertility, and there are a lot of other ways around this. Like if you can't get a hold of good compost, and you can't get a lot of these amendments, you can use cover crops. You can use compost teas and slurries, but keep in mind with compost teas and slurries, you're really feeding biology there.

[00:14:34] You not really adding that many nutrients and things like that, but it can be really helpful with jump starting biology. There's a lot of cool stuff going on with Korean natural farming, KNF or JADAM. I personally haven't dabbled in that very much or the compost teas and slurries, but those are other things you can use. There's a lot of different approaches out there, but again, I'm gonna show you what I use. It's been successful for me.

[00:14:58] Now, let's talk about how we actually flip a bed or prepare a bed for another planting. And we're over here in my first tunnel and this, these beds here, these were planted probably late summer, early fall. They�ve been harvested off of, and now I gotta start flipping them and getting them ready for�for spring now it's in mid-March.

[00:15:14] And so this bed here, that I'm gonna flip today. This was carrots and you can see, it's empty now. I've been harvesting outta this bed for probably five or six weeks. And you can also see how few weeds are in here. I know there's a lot of wood chips and weeds and stuff, and we'll take care of that too, but I just wanna show you sort of like what the bed looks like after you've been harvesting out of it. And I haven't really done anything here since I've harvested.

[00:15:34] So it's�it's great for that reason that I really don't have a lot of weeds here. And I know I keep saying that, but all right. So before we get into some of the nuts and bolts here, one of the first things you have to do is you have to think about the crop that's coming out. Now, if it is something like a root crop, you can just pull it out, and you're good to go, but you have to make sure either removing it or you're killing it.

[00:15:55] And so obviously, a root crop comes out, like if you're pulling carrots or beets or radishes or whatever, now, if you're doing something larger, let's say like you're doing lettuce, the best thing I found is to just twist off the�the lettuce head right at the soil level, or if it�s something bigger, like kale or tomatoes or peppers, I just take a pair of loppers and just cut it off right at the soil level, right below the soil level and leave the�the�the roots in the ground.

[00:16:19] Leaving the roots in the ground is super important to this whole thing, and there's a bunch of reasons for that. One is, when the plants go through the soil, they're creating pathways for the roots. And so, as those roots break down, we're leaving the soil open and fluffier and allows all the activity in the soil because a lot of times, we're fighting its compaction so we can let the plant roots do that for us.

[00:16:40] The other thing is when the plant roots are in the ground, even after you terminate the crop, it's still feeding the soil. The microbes are still eating those plant roots and�and what they have in them. And when you have those microbes contain�continue to be active as you plant your new crop, well, that's great because you're keeping the soil active, and then once your new crop gets in the ground and starts interacting with the soil, they'll be ready�the microbes will be ready to interact with the soil.

[00:17:02] So keeping the plant roots in the ground is hugely important. Obviously, if you're doing root crops, and you're pulling the carrots out, for example, there's nothing in there, but anything else, try to leave the roots in the ground as much as possible. We'll talk about baby greens at the end of this, because I have a slightly different way of doing�doing it.

[00:17:16] But generally speaking, you either pull it out or you just break off the plant right below the soil level, and the plant will die, and you can keep going with that. So the steps here, we're gonna pull up the irrigation. We'll put down string lines. We'll clean off the bed. We'll talk about broad forking and amendments and finishing off the bed.

[00:17:33] So that's the first thing I do is I'm gonna pull up this�the drip irrigation line and run the string lines. Got the drip irrigation lines out, I just had to undo the quick fittings and pull them straight back. I pull all three back at the same time. If I'm at one of the beds at the end, I'll just pull it straight out of the tunnel. And then when I'm ready, I can pull them right back in. Works really well.

[00:17:50] Just keep in mind, you want�try to keep the soil out of it. You don't wanna get clogs in there. And then I run my string lines and do this. And every time I flip a bed, and it's super easy because I already have those bed stakes in the ground, which I mentioned in previous modules.

[00:18:00] The reason for this is I like to keep my beds straight and in the same place all the time because they do tend to shift, especially when they're in a hill, like I am here, you can see that there's a lot of wood chips and leaves and stuff in my beds. And we don't wanna incorporate the wood chips in the beds because that will tie up nitrogen.

[00:18:15] So we wanna make sure we clear that up first, as I said, it's the one negative that I found with wood chips. They can wind up in your bed, but it's pretty easy to remedy that situation. You just take a soft rake and cleaned it up, so let me do that.

[00:18:24] Got this bed all cleared out. Only took like a minute or two to rake out all the stuff. And it's also a great opportunity to pull out any weeds by hand, if you have any weeds. So anyways, there were a couple, but not many. Now, the next step is to broadfork, and this is optional.

[00:18:37] I do really recommend it for your first season or two on the farm, but I think the tool is so effective that it makes itself obsolete eat within a season or two, if you're using it a lot. And I've noticed that for sure. Now, in these, in the first two tunnels here, this was originally where the farm was for the first two seasons.

[00:18:54] So the soil isn't nearly as compacted as it is in the third tunnel. So in 2021, as we rebuilt the farm and got it going, I was broadforking on every bed flip and�and then I stopped at the end of 2021 because it didn't need it anymore.

[00:19:06] Now, you don't have to have the same approach on every single bed. Some beds�beds might need more broadforking, might be more compacted than others, so you have to keep that in mind. Don't be, again, dogmatic about it. Now, the thing about the broadfork is, as I said, it will make itself obsolete within a few seasons if you're using it pretty often.

[00:19:23] And that's because it's very effective, and some people will say it's tillage. But as I said before, don't be dogmatic about it. If you need to create a little bit of disturbance to get the soil to do what you need to do long term, then I think it's worth it. And the broadfork is probably the gentlest way of helping de-compact the soil and open up pathways for, um, for plant roots and oxygen and moisture and all that kind of stuff.

[00:19:46] So it's a great tool. It's also human-powered. This one I got is made by a friend of mine, but I would recommend you go to Paperpot.co to check out the broadforks they have. They're pretty awesome. So again, this will not be required long term, but when you are broadforking, let me show you how to use this really quickly.

[00:20:05] You wanna work backwards. And so when you do this, you�you put the broadfork in the ground, and then I generally just rock it back and forth like this, and then you pull it back. And you wanna pull it back just to the point where you see the soil cracking right here. Right? You don't wanna pull it back like that. That's too much.

[00:20:23] You just need a�a light agitation to the soil. So again, get in here, just pop it like that. Go back a little bit more. As I said, this soil really doesn't need it. It's in great shape. It doesn't really have much work to get the�get the tines in the ground, but I'll just go back every 10, 12 inches, depending on how much you need it and just work my way down the down the bed.

[00:20:52] Just a great tool. I absolutely love it. It's�you feel very connected with the soil, and it's great. Now, some people will recommend that you add your amendments first and then you do your broadforking. I don't think it matters either way. I've been just broadfork first, but some people say put down the amendments broadfork, and it'll get down in the holes a little better, so�

[00:21:10] Anyways, you can do that. You can do it either way. It doesn't really matter to me. But anyways, yeah, now that we have broadforked the beds, we'll go through and lay amendments. But before we do that, I just wanna mention one other thing about the broad fork is it can bring up weed seeds, and this�I've seen this happen a little bit.

[00:21:27] So again, it's one of those things that if you are done using the broadfork on certain beds, like it doesn't really need it. Or maybe you just do it once at the beginning of the season if you had some compaction over the winter. But otherwise, only broadfork if you need it, because otherwise you're just wasting time and energy and potentially bring up weed seeds.

[00:21:43] So let me jump in here real quick and talk about our sponsor, Paperpot Co. Huge thanks to Diego and Paperpot Co. for making this entire course possible. I highly recommend that you go to Paperpot Co., check out what they have for sale there. They have great tools and equipment. They really focus on efficiency and high quality.

[00:21:59] They also have great customer service and they�re a reliable place to buy things from. If you're looking for a broadfork, for example, for your no-till system, go check out what they have. They're really, really nice. And you grow vegetables that look like this.

[00:22:10] Diego, who's the owner of Paperpot Co., also has an awesome podcast called Farm Small Farm Smart, go check it out. Lots of great growing information. Also, there are additional resources for the course over on the website, Paperpot.co/josh. Thanks again, Paperpot. Back to the module.

[00:22:26] So as I said, at like five buckets of compost per bed flip, and the easiest way I've found to do this is to use one of these garden carts, put five buckets in there, bring this over to your compost pile, load up the buckets in the cart, bring the cart over. And then what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna space them out along the bed. So again, five buckets for 50 feet. So every 10 feet or so.

[00:22:47] So I'm gonna lay those out and then put out the compost. Got the buckets spaced out. And I think this technique can be really helpful if you're just getting started with this, or if you have a crew that you're training. I think a lot of people, it's hard for them to judge, as they're pouring out compost onto the bed, how much 10 feet is. So if you space that ahead of time, you can kind of visualize it, and then you can go ahead and apply it.

[00:23:08] And while I'm doing this, I just wanna say that once you standardize the processes on your farm, it's really easy to train other people. And it's also easy to do this as a team. So, you know, when�as at Raleigh city farm and other farms, I've seen people working in teams of two or three or whatever. And the best thing about that is once you have your process down, anyone can jump in at any time and pick it up.

[00:23:35] So if someone is�if you're falling behind in terms of adding compost, someone can go grab compost. If broadforking needs to be done, you can just sort of do it as a relay race, and you can get a lot done, but you can flip a lot of beds that way once everybody knows how to do all the steps.

[00:23:55] So as I'm putting out this compost, just trying to get it as even as possible. Now, I only use five buckets. You could use more composts if you wanted to. But I think the idea here is that we're just feeding the soil as we go along. And then I'll put out my amendment mix, which I talked about before, and that's how we amend the soil and we gotta come back through and finish this off, and we'll be ready to plant.

[00:24:26] Now we got all the amendments down, time to run the tilther. And if you know what the tilther is, it's like a mini tiller or like a power rake. And I love this tool. It is completely optional. You do not need this, but there's some criticism about the tilther, too, because it looks like a little tiller.

[00:24:44] But it only really goes down about an inch and a half probably. And I found that it's really helpful for incorporating amendments and getting a really nice surface to plant into. And it also looks fantastic, but you do not need this. It is pricey. You can definitely just use a rake. I've really gotten addicted to it, it just looks awesome. And I like the way it makes the soil work for me.

[00:25:05] So this I bought from Johnny's. I've had no problems with it whatsoever. What I'd like to recommend here is buy a really nice drill. I like DeWalt a lot�I�m not sponsored by DeWalt, although I wish I was. I love their tools. I just buy the most expensive drill I can find, this is like the 20-volt XR buy the biggest batteries. This is like a six amp. Buy the big ones, because the little ones, you'll chew through them super quickly.

[00:25:31] And this is a good investment, not only �cause having a good drill on your farm is good to have, but also great if you have a greens harvester, too, so invest in a good drill. I just bought myself a second one last year so I can have a drill just for everyday use. And then this is just for farm stuff.

[00:25:45] So this basically lives on the tilther, and I'll show you how to work it. As I said, this is optional, but I really like how it works. And for me, it takes two passes, one up either side of the bed, and then I'll follow it with a rake, but there's a couple of little nuances to the tilther, which I don't think I've heard a lot of people talk about, but when you're running it, you can make it go a little bit deeper.

[00:26:04] And the way that you do that is by leaning back on it and pushing in the back edge of the tilther. It will cause it to dig in a little bit more. And also, as your beds shift, or if it's the first time you're creating beds, you can actually�you learn how to shape your beds a little bit with the tilther �cause you can�you know, if you are running along this edge here, and you want the soil to go further away from the walkway as you're running it, you can hold the tilther like this, and it'll throw the soil towards the middle.

[00:26:34] Also, if the bed has shifted away from the edge, you can kind of run it like this, causing it to go towards the walkway, so there's a little bit of nuance to it, but I think generally, people get pretty used to it pretty quickly. One at all side note about my farm being on the hill is I always run the downhill side first. I found it easier to pull the rake through when I do that, so let me show you how this works.

[00:26:56] One safety tip with the tilther is as soon as you're done, make sure you pull the string off of the trigger so you don't accidentally turn it on. And when I carry it, I always carry it with the tines facing out. I don't want anyone getting hurt with these�with this kind of tool. This is like, the only power tool I really use on the farm here. So anyways, you can see, I have one strip down the middle, and I'm just gonna clean this up with a landscape rake.

[00:27:20] All right, so the last step before the bed is ready to plant is using a landscape rake. I got this at Lowe's, I believe this is 36 inches wide, but the bed's 30 inches wide, so you can get dedicated rakes for this, like a bed prep break, Johnny�s sells 'em and some other people that are 30 inches wide. I've gotten used to the 36-inch-wide rake.

[00:27:38] And I kind of use it to my advantage because I pull it at an angle, and I think it gives you a little bit more control over getting the�the bed looking nice, or maybe I just got used to it, I don't know. But either way, it's just one pass for me when you're going down here. And this is where you finally create your�your bed that you're gonna plant into.

[00:27:54] So the first step of end here is I'll just make it smooth across. And then when I make one pass, it usually only takes one pass down the end of the bed. What I do is I hold it at the right angle, so I'm basically covering the bed and then I kind of like, hold it a certain height and just walk with it. This takes a little bit of practice, also having a nice tilth job beforehand helps a lot, too, but I just wanna level out the bed.

[00:28:18] You can get ridiculous with this, but again, you're just gonna be planting into it. So it's one of those things that, I don't know, it's like the, uh, the Zen rock gardens or whatever, but it feels like a zen rock garden. It's nice to get it�get it nice and smooth. I don't know. It's one of those things, but yeah, you just run it through like this and you kind of hold it at a certain level and just watch where the soil's going. Try to keep it in your string lines.

[00:28:44] All right, so that bed is prepped, and it looks great. The only other things left to do is to add some wood chips in the walkways. And I recommend that you just stay on top of that every time you flip a bed. If the walkways need some wood chips, put them in. Same method I�m using moving forward with the compost.

[00:29:01] I use the, um, the cart with the buckets, fill it up with wood chips and then put it out with the buckets in the bed. So after you plant, you can put the irrigation back in, and that's it. So as you can see, it's a pretty easy process. It's really gentle on the soil, and you get everything incorporated.

[00:29:21] And what I recommend is you plant right away because you always wanna, as I said, keep it covered, keep it planted. So the best thing to do is pull out a crop and put a new crop, right in. Some people wonder about if you're leaving the roots in the ground, how you plant, like if you have, let's say big things of kale, like I have back there, and there's three rows in there.

[00:29:40] You know, how do you plant around that? So, if you have big roots in the ground or like tomatoes or something like that, where it'd be hard to run a seeder through, you can always transplant around it. And if you're really good with crop planting, and you really want to do that, you can say, all right, well, I have a�I have a crop that has three rows.

[00:29:57] I'm gonna follow it with a crop that has four rows or two rows or something like that where you kind of plant between them. It hasn't been too much of an issue for me, especially with lettuce, the roots are so like, there's not much there, so I can kind of follow those with anything. For the kind of crops I'm growing, like carrots come outta the ground.

[00:30:11] I don't really think about it too much, but that's one of those things where you wanna think about what's coming out and what's going in. So we talked about root crops and also crops like you know, like lettuce and kale where you cut them off at soil level or right below soil level.

[00:30:26] But what about baby greens? Now, this is always a question with baby green bed flips because it's a lot of little plants, and you need to make sure you kill it because if you don't kill, let's say arugula or baby kale or something like that, it will become a weed, and you don't want that. So what I found to be the best thing is to just run your harvester, or if you're harvesting by hand, cut it as low as possible, put down some composts, just like we did, maybe a little bit more.

[00:30:49] Water it down really heavy and then cover it with a piece of landscape fabric. And I noticed that in the summertime, it's about a week and everything's gone, it's all broken down and we've incorporated all that organic matter into the soil. In the shoulder seasons, it's gonna take a lot longer. In the wintertime, I don't know if that's a viable option, but it's a lot of disturbance to pull all those plants out, and I wanna leave all that organic matter on the ground.

[00:31:12] So the quickest way is to just plant ahead, leave yourself a week in your crop planning. Just as I said, compost on, harvest it really low, put compost on it. Make sure you water it down, that'll really facilitate breakdown and cover it with landscape fabric. As I said, about a week. And we did this a bunch at Raleigh city farm. We started working great.

[00:31:28] I'm not really growing a lot of baby greens now, so it's not really in my process here, but this is a bed flip and uh, now it's ready to plant. And if you don't have stuff to plant right away, keep it covered. You can put a piece of landscape fabric on it and plant it when you can get to it, but the best you can do is plant right away.

[00:31:43] Sometimes if you have time and you're trying to get ahead, you can prep a bunch of beds. You could also do this you know, like in the fall or in the winter, and then cover it with the tarp. And then as soon as you can, in the spring, you pull off the tarp and the bed's ready to go. So a lot of flexibility here, but again, this is my system. It's gonna work out really, really well.

[00:32:05] That's my take on no-till, why I use it and how I implement it on my farm here. And remember, as we're trying to create living soil, keep those four main principles in mind. Keep the soil covered, keep the soil planted, disturb it as little as possible, and create diversity whenever possible. I know that tunnel I was just in working, it doesn't look that great. It's kind of rough right now, but I'm gonna be replanting that for spring, but you can see the results behind me here.

[00:32:29] And how much food I can grow. And it's just awesome. It's tastes good, very nutritious. And these practices have worked great for me. I will be doing separate modules about transplanting, direct seeding, so as I plant out beds, and I know I mentioned a few tools in this module today, but I also will do a separate module just about all the tools that I use on my farm.

[00:32:47] So a lot of great stuff coming up for sure. Remember, live Q and A sessions every Monday at 3:00 PM Eastern. And the next module, module seven will be crop planning. Hope to see you then.

[00:32:59] Diego Footer: Then there, you have it, Josh Sattin on no-till practices in living soil. This was module six of the Sattin Hill Farm Course. If you wanna get some resources related to this module, you can do so at paperpot.co/josh or using the link below. And if you wanna watch the video of this module, you can do so on Josh's YouTube channel, which I've also linked to below. Thanks for listening, until next time. Be nice. Be thankful, and do the work.

 

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