Garden and Field Tillage and Cultivation

Cultivation is a purposefully broader concept than simply digging or tilling the soil—cultivation involves an array of tools, materials and methods that, when properly combined, promote and maintain optimum soil health and good tilth, a composite term for the overall physical characteristics of a soil (texture, structure, permeability, consistency, drainage, and water-holding capacity).

In short, tilth equals the workability of a soil in relationship to its ability to grow plants. This unit introduces students to the tools, techniques, and rationale behind traditional French-intensive organic gardening and mechanized, field-scale soil cultivation. Beginning with the concepts of soil cultivation and tillage, students will learn about the aims of cultivation, and the appropriate applications of primary and secondary tillage techniques.

Through demonstrations and a hands-on exercise, students will begin to develop the technical skills needed to cultivate Frenchintensive raised beds using both primary and secondary tillage tools and techniques, and will become familiar with the various tillage tools and processes used in mechanical cultivation and bed formation.

Unit supplements detail cultivation goals, particularly at the garden scale; discuss tillage and bed formation sequences, and the importance of row spacings at the field scale; as well as the origins of the French intensive method.

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Lecture 1 covers the definition of cultivation and tillage, the general aims of soil cultivation, the factors influencing cultivation approaches, and the potential impacts of excessive or ill-timed tillage.

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