Using the broadfork

The broadfork is a long U-shaped fork that allows the soil to be worked at about 30 centimeters deep without turning it over. In our gardens, this tool is the ideal complement to the rest of our equipment, which works more on the surface of the ground. Its operation is very simple. Just to gain a foothold on the crossbar while pulling the handles backward, which causes the teeth up. It is an ergonomic tool that allows you to work with your back always straight.

At a good pace, the use of the broadfork on an entire plot (16 boards of 30 meters) requires less than an hour of work.

One would think that, on a commercial scale, the work with this tool is too laborious. However, you should know that there are very few alternatives. The broadfork is therefore a solution simple and economical to ensure you have a well-ventilated floor. All in all, I consider that the advantages of this tool are too great to let laziness dictate our practices. It should be specified, by cons, that we do not use it systematically before each sowing, but only for crops whose roots benefit from tillage in depth.

The broadfork is a tool that was invented in France by André Grelin, in the 1960s. Our company uses the name of this tool because we found that the broadfork was emblematic of a manual, ecological, and efficient work in gardening organic.

Tarpaulins and ground cover before crops

One of the main discoveries we have made over the years is the use of tarpaulins' ground cover to prepare the soil for planting. A of the big problems to be solved was to arrive at clean a bed of crop residues and weeds without having to use a rotary tiller. For a while, we stubbed out our planks by hand, with the idea of ​​using the crop residues as compost material.

But it was too long a job. A bit by luck, we started using treated black polyethylene tarpaulins that we had bought for other reasons. We quickly noticed that it was a very effective technique: three weeks of ground cover with these tarps destroy all crop residues, leaving a very clean board surface.

After several tests, we also noticed that this technique decreases considerably the presence of weeds in crops subsequent. The explanation is simple: weeds germinate under the tarpaulin, which creates humid and hot conditions, before being destroyed by the absence of light. As for the mulching of crops, I believe that this practice is also beneficial to the soil. At least we see regularly an impressive presence of worms when we remove the tarpaulins, which is a good sign. While researching the issue, we found that producers French people widely used this technique (called "occultation") to reduce, or even eliminate, the presence of weeds in their fields.

The future of minimal tillage

Minimal tillage is increasingly discussed by experts in agricultural science, whose interest in the biological approach keeps increasing. Terms like "living substrate" and "equilibrium fragile ”are now cited as synonyms for good agricultural practices, and I welcome that. same if nothing has yet been gained in terms of eliminating synthetic herbicides, agronomy modern seems to better measure the importance of soil health. I am hopeful that techniques and tools that further enhance microbial life and

the structure of soils will emerge from the exchange of information on an international scale. The work of a gardener-market gardener can and must be part of this research and development process.

Moreover, it was Eliot Coleman who provoked with us a first reflection on the advantage of developing surface tillage techniques. At our farm, we have adopted some of his suggestions, as well as various tools that he has helped develop itself over the past 20 years. After several adjustments, we found a balance between theory and practice so that today our method of soil preparation gives satisfactory results both in terms of yields and resulting savings in effmts (or energy).

Having said that, I am convinced this is just the start and that by remaining attentive to new ideas and strategies, we will find out how to make it even more efficient ecological approach to the work of


For those who are starting an agricultural project, one dimension seems important to me to specify: if minimal tillage is an idea that you inspire, it should be more in line with an approach than in a doctrine. The important, during the first years, is to manage to produce vegetables and we must not dismiss too quickly solutions tested by seasoned market gardeners, even if they do not seem "ideal"

in your eyes.