More master gardeners "go biological" — and deer go for their gardens

Gardens used to be the world's most-tilled, "flowerpot seedbed" patches of dirt. Now, as biological knowledge multiplies and organic home-grown food enthusiasm spreads, gardeners are looking for ways to aerate soil without molesting the mycorrhizal fungi down under.

November 8, 2018  By Jerry Carlson — Our 20-acre Renewable Farming farm has essentially been converted from Grandpa's plot research to Grandsons' garden and permaculture farm. My 300-foot test strips of corn and beans are history, buried under compost and moldering wood chips. Under several thousand truckloads of compost and mulch, in fact. 

If you've followed this site a while, you've seen photos of the key players, led by grandson Blake, now 21 and a man with a mission. Grandson Terry is always on hand to assist, too. Blake is planting fruit and nut trees, building Hugelkultur raised beds based on hundreds of tree trunks delivered by tree services, and experimenting with multiple mixed crops in his garden.

Blake's gardens and groves are far from the traditional neat rows of regularly hoed, separated rows of individual veggies. Tomatoes and cover crops are mingled; so are most other species. Amazingly, mixing an array of garden crop types achieves what the best organic gardeners promise: Excellent yields and virtually no disease or insect pests.

Buck sampling kale in Blake's garden this morning

Our main predator is Whitetail deer, which also love to shred young fruit tree saplings. Our varied greenery is a deer magnet. This buck doesn't know that this year, we have a landowner's deer tag.

Blake is proving a primary principle of multiplying his underground "livestock" — trillions of friendly fungi and bacteria which convert compost carbon into plant-healthy nutrients. Grandma Jill and Grandpa Jerry have never had such energizing abundance of kale, chard and other vibrant greens. Every day, we've been converting fresh greens into what we call "green drinks" with our Angel juicer. The taste difference between green juice made from Blake's fresh produce and juice made with that wilted stuff from Mexico and California is astonishing. Apparently the bucks and does have developed a taste for leafy kale and rainbow chard, too.

Now, Grandson #3, Lane, is also joining the family's fresh-food production team. My long preamble above is merely a pretext for what I wanted to show you: I gave Lane a home-school assignment to write a short report about Blake's favorite "minimum till" garden tool, the broadfork.

Lane, age 10, is home-schooled by parents Erik and Jeanene, grandparents Jerry and Jill, and 21-year-old brothers Blake and Terry (a 6-to-1 teacher-student ratio). Here's Lane's article, which his parents are allowing me to publish on our Renewablefarming.com site:

Why more gardeners are starting to use the broadfork

By Lane Carlson

The broadfork is gaining popularity because gardeners are realizing how helpful it is. 

Broadforks are sometimes sold in stores, but they are mostly available online. You can find them online for as little as $60, but the best ones are $130 to $220.

I interviewed Blake Carlson, the founder of Deep Root Acres in Black Hawk County, Iowa. I asked him about his broadfork and he said: “I just started using this size broadfork this year. Last year I used what’s called a digging fork, and that’s a very small version of the broadfork.” 

He said it allows him to break up the soil without aggressively shredding fungus and beneficial organisms. 

It also allows him to get oxygen into the soil so aerobic organisms can breathe. It breaks up the soil without mixing soil layers, so it makes it easier to plant crops while preserving microbe habitat. 

People make broadforks by themselves, but some purchase them online. Blake’s broadfork is homemade.

There are many tutorials online on how to make and use one.