What are Permanent Beds?
Permanent beds can help vegetable growers improve soil health on the farm-scale. Especially on small, diversified organic vegetable farms, permanent beds can help reduce tillage across a range of crops and within a complex production system.
Rather than plow and harrow by the field, fields are divided into beds. Primary tillage is targeted, often only to the planting bed, and field traffic (tractor or foot) is restricted to the between-bed area, year after year. Pathways can be managed with cultivation, mulches, cover crops, or perennial sod. Permanent beds allow the concentration of fertilizer or compost within the planting area.
With compaction concentrated outside the planting area, growers can reconsider the intensity, depth, area, and frequency of tillage necessary. The approach to tillage varies based on farm characteristics, equipment and materials, and labor. Growers may practice conventional tillage, shallow tillage (>50% reduction in soil volume), combination of shallow tillage with targeted deep tillage, or no-till. Reduced tillage practices often attempt to minimize soil disturbance while also maintaining the benefits of some tillage for controlling weeds and incorporating amendments and crop residues.