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Post by Sonshine Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:04 am

Humans use tools to shape our environment, but our tools shape us as well — our assumptions and ways of doing things. Most of us have grown up believing that machines are faster, more efficient and do the job better than the human-powered tools our grandparents used. But in many cases, those simple tools may be more appropriate for the task at hand. This often is true when working in your home garden.

10/23/2009 -- Lifestyles Food Digest
Lifestyles Food Digest...

Food Co-ops: Good Food and Good Prices
Food Co-ops: Good Food and Good Prices September/October 1979 A "New Wave" of grocery outlets can g...

Mother's Herb Garden: Garden Sorrel
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HOME GARDEN'S EXPERTS DESIGN A VEGETABLE MINI-GARDEN FOR $10 May/June 1974 No, you don't need a cou...

CITY FOOD/COUNTRY FOOD February/March 1998 By Joe Novara Maybe food really should be shrink-wrapped...
Simpler Can be Better
Using human-powered garden tools has many advantages. First, consider the enormous difference in initial cost between hand tools and machines. Also, maintenance costs are likely to be much less with hand tools. It’s more likely that you’ll be able to handle repairs yourself, instead of resorting to a paid expert, too.

As for efficiency, we usually forget that human-powered tools are vastly more efficient than tools powered by fossil fuels — that is, they require less energy per unit of work. Further, every experienced gardener knows it is more efficient to prepare, plant and weed soil that is deep, mellow and retains its moisture. The tools that help us nurture productive soil are the tools that also are the most efficient in the long run.

When weighing the choice of powered versus low-tech tools, I offer a thought experiment: Say you want to convert a piece of established pasture sod to garden soil that is more fertile, productive and easily worked with each passing season. I propose that you could best accomplish this task using three simple and supremely low-tech tools: a scythe, a garden cart and a broadfork.

Why Not Use a Tiller?
It’s true that killing and turning under the established sod would be accomplished faster with a power tiller — in an afternoon, as opposed to a whole season with the alternative discussed below. However, someone once said that patience is a virtue, and that’s certainly true when it comes to nurturing productive garden soil.

Choosing a particular tool can shut off creative thought about alternatives. As the saying goes: If your only tool is a hammer, every task looks like a nail. Choosing to use a power tiller blinds you to an important question: Why till at all?

In fact, there are good reasons to avoid pulverizing and mixing soil layers, whether with a power tiller or any other tool. Soil is a complex, living community of organisms that compete and cooperate, and in the process alter soil conditions in profound ways

Please click on the link for the rest of the article.

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