Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To Till or Not To Till

Every Fall, weather permitting, I roto-till my garden beds in preparation for Spring. When the frost has taken its toll I clean out the plant material for the compost bins. In this case it is a bed of dahlias where I also dug up the bulbs and will attempt to store them. (My previous attempt was unsuccessful). 

The next step is to till the clumps and pick out anything I missed the first time.

Next I get a trailer full of compost and add about 3 inches to each bed until I run out.

The compost is tilled into the bed, smoothed out and the rocks are swept off. All ready for Spring planting!
I've been trying to do less work and a little more reading/research which isn't easy with so many children/chores/animals, and I've found some articles in support of doing the opposite.... do not till.

Obviously, I haven't bought into this method yet or I would have saved myself a lot of work. For me tilling my gardens is a bit like burning my lawn in the Spring... I can't NOT do it. I'm a bit like the old dog who can't learn new tricks.

I read two articles here and here and I'm not sure if I disagree or am just stubborn. Am I really damaging my soil? Do you till your gardens? I would love if you could share what you do.


sue in mexico mo said...

I quit tilling years ago and so did my gardening friends for the very reasons mentioned in your linked articles.

However, I do still burn my grass in the spring - only because it is zoysia that was here when I bought the house twenty years ago and gets too thickly matted even with a grass catcher. I don't like zoysia grass. . . but I am too lazy and/or cheap to replace it. I still fight it where I have removed it for flower beds, even with round-up, newspaper or cardboard and mulch.

I don't think farmers in our area plow anymore, either. They do something called no-till farming.

Here I Am/Carrie said...

I have never tilled my flower beds or vegetable beds in 20 years. However they have been hand turned when and where I could. But just don't have the good back anymore for all that work so looking for a good brand little tiller.

Here I Am/Carrie said...

Just went to your sites you linked here regarding tiller or not. I did it the no-tilling way for years. My reasons for trying to take the easy way out it of course how much my body can take. For years I had 4' wide beds that it was a cardinal sin to even step foot in. I could tell right away if hubby had done just that as his foot would sink down in the fluffy soil leaving a print. Well in the last few years I found trying to keep the grasses from creeping under my logs into my raised bed was getting to much. So I joined some of my beds. Also that bit of stretch I always preformed in weeding, planting seeds and harvesting in my 4' to 5' beds had taken their toll on my lower back and over stretching the heels of my feet just in the name of not walking or stepping in my beds. Then I starting put plank boards across the logs when I widen the beds. Well now I was off the ground 5 inches and stretching that much more to reach the ground. I probably could have handled all of this if I had done Yoga for years and stayed limber. Who has time? Last winter I did start doing Yoga after my back had gotten better and realized how more limber I could be to do those stretches I did before. But then spring came and work started again outside and yoga went out the window. Instead I reduced my garden size and depend on my hubby to to at least plant and harvest the potatoes. I tend the rest of the beds and now walk in them. They certainly don't look like what they did years ago, but at least I can now work again a few hours every week in garden and more instead of being lay up with pain everywhere.

Of course I was thinking if I had the tiller I could get my beds back to what they looked like years ago. I guess it's sometime boils down to appearance. Oh doesn't it feel so good to see your beds all ready for the next season. I am learning to let go of ever thing looking perfect. So maybe I don't need the rototiller after all. Just another expense that will require maintenance.

You so amaze me with you energy with all you have to do, family included. I did have a look at your other blog. You go girl.... Just take heed to those pains in back, neck and shoulder that start to creep in. Give them a chance to heal. I didn't for a long time till it laid me up completely. Ok I have so gotten carried away here with my commenting. Just I so love your lifestyle and your beautiful place you have created.S

Start your sunflower in the greenhouse next year. I start all mine in our greenhouse. My season is too short to try and plant them in the ground as seeds. They transplant no problem and you will get blooms long before the frost comes. They are fast growing when started almost like a marigold so don't start too early. Mine use to bloom just when frost would arrive when planted directly by seed. So wishing you a wonderful fall into winter and looking forward to see how your life blooms. Carrie

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