After growers and gardeners have taken our two-day Principles of Biological Systems course, they frequently ask me if there's a single book out there that encompasses all that they have just learned in the weekend workshop, a book that summarizes the practices and insights they could dig in and refer to later.
This is that book.
Coming out this month, this is, quite frankly, the best practical manual for vegetable growers that I am aware of.
You can get a taste with this excerpt.
Order it now, before spring tasks become too overwhelming, and the concepts will be fresh in your mind and heart as you begin the new season with your soil and your plants.
No-Till Intensive Vegetable CulturePesticide-Free Methods for Restoring Soil and Growing Nutrient-Rich, High-Yielding Crops
by Bryan O'Hara
Use the code SOIL19 (all one word) for 30% off!
A couple years my senior, and certainly a much more successful farmer, Bryan and I have been learning from each other for years. He has graced the stage of the Soil & Nutrition Conference a number of times, including our very first conference in 2012.
"Bryan O'Hara is one of the most brilliant vegetable farmers in North America. Few have mastered the ability to grow vegetables without diminishing the soil with destructive tillage. This humble soil genius understands the true art and science of vegetable farming. I highly recommend this book to all those who want to farm well and restore soil."
Ray Archuleta, farmer; founder, Soil Health Academy; partner, Understanding Ag LLC
From his deep wisdom and experience, Bryan covers tillage alternatives, planting, seed saving, mineral balancing, mulching, composting, marketing, and all the other dynamics of running a successful vegetable farm.
"This book is a grower’s dream, filled with crisp and invaluable details and clear-eyed explanations and guidance that connect 'how-to' with 'why.' O'Hara's innovative and pioneering methods amply demonstrate the power — and profitability — of prioritizing soil health and thriftiness alongside keen and insightful observations of field conditions. Simply put, you need this book at your fingertips if you want to successfully grow no-till vegetables."
Anne Biklé, coauthor of The Hidden Half of Nature
Far beyond numbers, techniques, and prescriptions, Bryan describes the expressions of principles and forces that govern growth, capturing and explaining subtleties and nuances that are foundational to vitality and providing readers with a deeper understanding that allows for better decision making.
“Perhaps no calling demands so many disparate skills as that of the cultivation of vegetables to provide for others in harmony with nature. The compleat farmer is a master of all trades: observer, synthesizer, balancer of polarities, soil chemist, labor efficiency expert, coach, decision maker, harvester, marketer, and deep thinker. Using detailed examples and sharp tools, master farmer Bryan O’Hara has built an integrated philosophical framework and operations manual for this blessed work that has so much to offer both farmer and eater.”
CR Lawn, founder, Fedco Seeds
And thank you to Chelsea Green for allowing us to publish a short excerpt from Bryan’s book. Here, Chapter 2 begins with the most well-written explanation of what we want to see in our fields that I have ever read.
No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture
Picturing Balanced Growth
With refined observation and practice, it becomes easy to identify balanced, healthy crop growth. Many physical characteristics are reliable indicators. The seedlings spring out of the ground quickly. The initial leaves or cotyledons are relatively large and remain green for an extended period of time. The growth rate is steady and uninterrupted from germination through to seed-bearing maturity. Maturity is not delayed. The plants are sturdy but not brittle; they flex when they are brushed against or harvested. They are capable of standing upright during heavy winds and rain without lodging. The stems are thick and have balanced internodal distances. The leaves have a consistent green coloration (or if their pigmentation is other than green, those colors are extensive and vibrant) that is not too light nor too dark. There are no signs of mottling; the leaf edges are not scorched, and the leaves do not twist or roll. Leaves have tangible thickness and are not excessively hairy. The leaves are large and plentiful and appropriately positioned for maximum collection of solar energy.
Freshly dug roots are vibrant white, particularly at their tips, with no discoloration. There is an appropriate balance between the number of horizontal feeder roots and taproot size. Roots do not appear excessively hairy. Soil life around the roots is abundant, particularly earthworms. The soil sticks to the feeder roots, often encasing each separate root. If pigmentation is appropriate in the roots of the crop, that pigmentation is extensive and vibrant. The amount of root growth and top growth is balanced; neither is excessive, both are in proper ratio.
From flower to fruit to seed, the quantity is abundant yet not excessive. There is colorful pigmentation and vibrancy of flowers and fruits. The flowers all fill to fruits, and the fruits are carried to full maturity. The fruits are completely filled out, large, and heavy. They evenly ripen. The seeds are plump and heavy and mature in a timely manner. The seed is of high germination percentage and quickly germinates. The vegetables are very well flavored with a relatively high sugar content. Customers, including small children, readily consume them. Vegetables are neither hard and fibrous nor soft and watery. If appropriate, they develop pungencies and odors that are obvious and pleasing. They keep very well post-harvest, often dehydrating over time if left in storage rather than rotting. The benefit to consumers’ health of consuming this food is obvious.
All of these conditions go hand in hand with insect and disease resistance as well as high yields. Most of these conditions also all happen at once. In other words, when all is well, all these conditions are present. This leads to ease of harvest, customer appreciation and enthusiasm, lengthy sales periods, and all the other benefits of a well-raised crop, not the least of which is the opportunity for profit. Often, however, growing conditions may not be tending toward this picture of balanced health, and in these cases growers may need to make some adjustments arising from a thorough understanding of those forces that influence and create balanced conditions...