Book Review: “No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture”

In "No Till Intensive Vegetable Culture," Bryan O’Hara provides a detailed road map for transitioning away from tillage and toward regenerative growing practices.

by Robin Hackett
PHOTO: Marketa/Flickr

For farmers like me who were already interested in growing organic vegetables without tillage, No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture is the book we’ve been waiting for someone to write.  And, it’s hard to imagine someone more qualified to write such a book than Bryan O’Hara, the no-till farmer of Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut.  

No Till Intensive Vegetable Culture
Chelsea Green Publishing

Title: No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture: Pesticide-Free Methods for Restoring Soil and Growing Nutrient-Rich, High-Yielding Crops

Author: Bryan O’Hara

Cover Price: $29.95

Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing

A No-Till Pioneer

No-till, organic production has become somewhat “hip” in the world of market gardening over the past several years. (This is for good reason.) But O’Hara started experimenting with no-till methods well before it was cool to do so. 

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As O’Hara describes, he began minimizing tillage over the course of many years thanks in large part to an interest in Korean Natural Farming. This is a chemical-free method of agriculture that values soil health and the benefits of indigenous microorganisms.

As is increasingly well-known today, no-till agriculture can provide farms with numerous benefits, including:

  • carbon sequestration
  • enhanced soil structure
  • improved soil health
  • increases in soil organic matter  

Since healthier soil of course yields more productive crops, it’s not hard to see why no-till growing is worth getting excited about.

As O’Hara describes in his book, “our switch away from tillage to no-till methods was nothing short of stunning in its improvements to soil and crop health, disease and insect resistance, weed control, irrigation reduction … and more.”   

Masterful Methods

No-till methods have become almost standard among industrial corn and soy operations. But  these farms are able to avoid tillage by turning to herbicides to manage their weeds. 

No-till organic vegetable production has, on the other hand, remained a tough nut to crack. Without the ability to use herbicides, the majority of organic farms rely on tillage for weed management. 

Prior to the publication of No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture, organic farms looking to transition away from tillage had few resources to turn to other than the occasional article online or Andrew Mefferd’s No-Till Organic Farming Revolution

O’Hara’s book, though, dives into a whole new level of detail. He explores his particular no-till system in depth. And he covers topics ranging from cover-cropping to mulching to direct-seeding.

Read a review of No-Till Organic Farming Revolution  by Andrew Mefferd.

As much as the No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture promises to be a useful manual for farmers looking to transition away from tillage, it could equally well serve as an introduction to sustainable growing techniques for the new home gardener.   

A Regenerative Agriculture Roadmap

As its subtitle (“Pesticide-Free Methods for Restoring Soil and Growing Nutrient-Rich, High-Yielding Crops”) proclaims, the book guides readers through the various details of growing vegetables that having nothing to do with tillage. 

The book tackles topics ranging from irrigation to insect control. And it does so with a unique, omnipresent emphasis on promoting diversity and ecological health on the farm. 

As O’Hara describes, his agricultural “methodology is based upon holistic concepts and observation of the whole of the environment, with its web of interconnection, and how this web interacts with vegetable growth.”

Predicting the popularity of a book is an obvious fool’s errand, but you can hope for that success.  No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture provides farmers and gardeners alike with a roadmap for a regenerative agriculture. It prioritizes biological diversity, soil health and the production of nutrient-dense crops. 

Let’s all hope that it becomes a reference manual for farmers across the country. 

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