The result is a garden bed that has the soil loosened to a depth of about 24 inches. .
Cultivating Vs. Tilling
Cultivating as a practice is really two things: removing weeds from the garden and loosening the soil to optimize the retention and penetration of air, water and nutrients.While cultivating can also bring some weed seeds to the soil surface to germinate, cultivating will also draw up and expose these young weed sprouts, leaving them to die when left exposed on the soil surface.As weeds are systematically removed it decreases competition for water and nutrients, leaving everything for your plants to feed to their hearts content.If you can easily observe that the soil surface has crusted over and that weeds are sprouting and on the offensive, it is time to shallow cultivate.If working with small fine seeds they will have an easier time sprouting and thriving in cultivated soil.This will also kick start a process that earthworms and micro-organisms can complete by doing the work of fully integrating the nutrients deep into the soil.Tilling is actually a form of deep cultivation that is necessary when preparing a new garden bed or when adding large amounts of organic material.Autumn or fall tilling also provides the opportunity to supplement the soil with rough organic amendments that decompose slowly prior over the winter.This is not recommended however unless your plan is to add substantial amounts of organic amendments to improve the soil.Digging in soil amendments every few years in fall can be done to a rather shallow depth, allowing nature to do most of the work.While not all gardeners agree about the necessity, frequency and depth of cultivating and tilling, all of what is noted above is generally accepted practices. .
Garden Tilling Tips
SHTFPreparedness may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.Starting a home garden is a sure way to improve your food security without spending too much money.A healthy root system is the main determinant of your garden’s productivity.The reason behind the deep tilling of virgin gardens is the condition of the ground.Besides, there could be a minimal bacterial activity to promote fertility in the soil.Thus deep tilling could upset bacterial activity and interfere with the soil condition.The other important determinant is the type of vegetables you intend to grow in your garden.Cucumber, peas, kale, and eggplant require medium-depth soil.You will need to dig shallowly if you intend to plant corn, garlic, and endive among other vegetables.In your first year of gardening, experts recommend that you till to a depth of 6 – 10 inches.Proper tilling will mix the organic matter or compost and other amendments with the soil.Collect the soil from one row to the tilling depth and heap it along the adjacent.Work the remaining ground just like the first time to achieve a depth of 12 inches.Refill the heaped soil back to the row you have just dug.The aim of such shallow digging is to avoid bringing weed seeds to the surface.The goal of tilling an established garden is to loosen the surface soil to promote aeration.If you desire a garden, but the only available space is on a slope, then you can plant your vegetables without tilling.Such mater must have been composting for the past year onto the surface soil of the garden.This will allow you to get enough material to layer on top of your garden to provide nutrients for your plants.The resulting lasagna garden bed will have a depth of 8 to 10 inches.If you want to learn how to build a backyard bunker like your grandparents had, without breaking the bank, then you need Easy Cellar.Easy Cellar will also reveal how a veteran, with only $421, built a small nuclear bunker in his backyard. .
How to Till a Garden
When creating a space for a new flower bed or veggie garden, it’s important to first prepare the soil.Tilling wet soil damages the valuable, existing structure which you’ll need as your garden grows.It’s best to prepare your spring garden in the fall and sheet mulch before rains set in.To sheet mulch, first determine where your new garden will grow, remove any large weeds or shrubby plants, and wet soil using Gilmour’s Heavy Duty Front Control Watering Nozzle and Flexogen Super Duty Hose.Once loosened, but not turned, sprinkle a 2-inch layer of compost into the trench and gently work it into the soil.When you sheet mulch in fall and double-dig in spring, it prepares a planting area that is ready to grow a fabulous garden while working with nature.When we double-dig instead of using a machine like a rototiller, we till in such a way that is least destructive to soil health while adding aeration and organic matter.This is twice as deep as a typical rototiller, giving plants and their root systems the very best start.Remember to first prepare garden soil with sheet mulching, this will make the work of double-digging in spring far easier.Most soils develop over years, forming layers that are home to a variety of animals needed to grow healthy gardens. .
Tilling Is One Chore You Might Be Able to Skip
The major benefits attributed to the annual rite of tilling are that it aerates the soil; chops and kills weeds; and mixes in organic materials, fertilizers, and lime.The benefits are slim One of the most common reasons people till the soil is to add air that we have squeezed out of it by tromping back and forth or rolling over it with our wheelbarrows, garden carts, and tractors.But because most of a plant’s feeder roots lie in the surface layers, where biological activity and aeration is best, there is really no benefit to burying these materials deep within the ground.I, along with many other gardeners, have dramatically reduced weed problems by merely abandoning tillage, an effect that studies by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have confirmed.Charles Darwin, whose last book was The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits, determined that earthworms turn over the top 6 inches of soil every 20 years.Humus forms from the remains of old plants and from our additions to the soil of compost, autumn leaves, wood chips, and other organic material. .
Creative Vegetable Gardener:No Till Garden: Build Healthy Soil +
That rich, dark, blank canvas beckons us to come on over and work our vegetable magic.We imagine ourselves gently planting a seedling in the fluffy soil with no straining or digging necessary.Not only are you destroying the soil structure and bringing weed seeds up to the surface – you’re also creating more work for yourself.I’m going to save you from this horrible fate by sharing why you should establish a no till garden and exactly how to do it.We get a lot of spring rains where I live in Wisconsin, so often right after someone would till their garden we’d get a huge rainstorm which would result in their soil becoming compacted and eroded and often their seeds were washed away.Tillage destroys and/or depletes the soil’s aggregate stability, structure, pore space, water holding capacity, infiltration, permeability, gaseous exchange and nutrient storage ability.”.These are all incredibly important factors that influence the health and productivity of the plants growing in your garden.If you don’t have healthy soil, it’s impossible to grow plants that are as big and productive as they should be.The first time I went to Hawaii and put on a pair of goggles and fins and started looking below the ocean’s surface I was blown away.A single teaspoon of rich garden soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and loads of nematodes.These bacteria and fungi have evolved to have complex and beneficial relationships with the plants we grow.That’s a lot of important roles being fulfilled by millions of tiny things we can’t even see with the naked eye.If you left them where they were, in the cool and dark depths of the soil layers, they’d be much less likely to germinate and start outcompeting your vegetable seeds and seedlings.This is in contrast to the flat or farm style of gardening, in which you till up a large square or rectangle in your yard every season.That encourages you to stay on the paths when walking and working, and you’ll be less likely to step into the garden beds.Walking and stepping on the soil you’re growing food in will compact it over the long term.And there’s no need to till these beds which will keep the soil food web in tact and your plants thriving.In contrast, when you grow food in the flat style, every spring you have to wait until the soil dries out, get out your tiller, and then lay out your planting beds again.If you cleared out and mulched your garden in fall, all you have to do is wait for the soil to warm up, and then walk out and start planting.You can read my passionate plea to keep your soil covered in this article about vegetable garden mulch.Once they’re constructed, you can take that blank canvas and use the vegetable plants and flowers to “paint” on it to create beautiful and interesting combinations of colors, textures, and heights.Two common complaints about vegetable gardens are that they’re ugly and it takes a lot of work to grow your own food.I show you three different options for creating easy raised garden beds, discuss the pros and cons of each style, and share the supplies you’ll need.Since we’re on the subject of creating a healthy soil ecosystem, let’s discuss some other actions to strike from your garden practices.When designing your garden beds, make sure they’re no more than 4 feet wide or you’ll have trouble reaching into the middle and will be tempted to put a foot on that nice, loose soil.After a large rainfall, let your soil dry out a bit before disturbing it with forks, rakes, or other tools.Bare soil is vulnerable to erosion from wind and rain, drying and cracking from heat and sun, and also invites lots of weed seeds to germinate.When I used to run a youth farming program I would forbid the students from weeding unless they had digging fork in their hand.Hard Rake It’s best not to disturb the soil of your garden beds too much, but a hard rake is very handy when smoothing out the top of the beds when preparing to plant small seeds like carrots, beets, and lettuce.During my garage cleaning frenzy recently I got rid of every single trowel I owned except for this one.The red handle makes it easy to find in the garden when I inadvertently put it down somewhere random.Read how I use it and which kinds I recommend in this article: Why mulch is the ultimate garden tool.Creating a no-till garden takes some work and planning up front, but in subsequent years you’ll reap all of the rewards we’ve talked about in this article.If you’re someone who’s been tilling your garden, consider experimenting and turning at least some of your space into a no-till area and compare the results.Additional Resources For Getting Better Results Find my favorite gardening supplies, varieties, books, tools and more in my Amazon storefront. .
No-Till Gardening: An Easier Way to Grow
In this video and article we’re going to explore just how no-till gardening can save you time and effort – and all while boosting the health and vitality of your soil.The logic goes that digging helps you to incorporate nutrient-boosting organic matter such as compost, while creating looser, fluffier soil for sowing and planting.Consider the myriad of soil life that’s disrupted every time we dig, from bacteria to earthworms, ground beetles to fungi.This will suppress the growth of the weeds beneath by blocking out light, and provide nutrient-rich material for roots to grow into.Suitable organic matter includes compost, or manure from a trusted source where you can guarantee no herbicides have been used.Fast forward a few months and any grass and weeds below will have rotted down, while earthworms will work to gradually incorporate the organic matter into the soil below.If there are lots of weeds on the ground where you want to grow, lay down a layer of cardboard before adding your organic matter.Once the growing season gets underway, you’ll find that any weeds that do manage to make it through will be much easier to remove.This will also make it easy to space plants out at exactly the right distance, saving you time thinning out rows of seedlings.Popularized by organic gardener Paul Gautschi in his ‘Back to Eden’ method, materials such as woodchips are used to mimic Mother Nature’s infinite ability to recycle nutrients.The secret of this top layer is to slow down evaporation and constantly feed the soil below, so that no additional fertilizers are ever required.Replace old mulch as it rots down or becomes incorporated into the soil, so that the ground is being constantly fed and gradually built up.Suitable mulches include compost, leafmold, hay, woodchips, grass clippings, straw and sawdust. .
To Till or Not to Till the Garden
Growing up on a homestead, our garden was cleaned up, fertilized with composted manure, and turned over every spring.Teens and young adults in our rural town would form work crews to help to dig the gardens of those who were not able to do that by themselves.In nature soil is always covered, be it with died back grass or leaves and branches that have fallen to the ground.Soil is a living organism full of natural fungi, worms, and microbes.Also, the roots of plants in the soil communicate with each other, encouraging each other to grow by sharing resources.Worms get killed and the exposed soil is being eroded by wind, rain, and frost.…the garden is bare, with some weeds, dry and hard, and it is time to plant.You have two choices, to till or to cover your garden soil with a thick layer of mulch.Most no-till gardening methods recommend just covering the area with cardboard and/or newspaper, add compost and mulch and it is ready to be planted.We did that in our backyard garden, there were about 2 feet of tops soil, overgrown with lawn and weeds, and very uneven.If the soil was very hard weedy or of poor quality, you want to start with a thicker cover.While converting a hayfield into a garden, in the 20×50 ft trial plot we used 3 different coverings.It will help to build the soil, but can not replace the fungi that a tilled garden is missing out on.Also, make sure to still mulch the garden to build good soil, till that in next spring, and repeat.Roots in a tilled garden always hit the hardcore at a certain depth, then they split and compete with each other.For covering use natural mulch such as compost, rotted manure, wood chips, straw, or seedless hay.You will need 1-2 inches (3-5cm) of compost mulch to cover the soil in late fall or early spring.Covering means, placing a layer of natural material on top of the existing soil.When we leave other mulches covering our beds over winter we provide nesting habitat for mice and especially voles that explode in population and cause a great deal of damage to our garden.As well, mulch applied in autumn or spring has created major cutworm issues for us.If you feel like the soil is still hard you can work it with a Broadfork , or simple garden fork.In our short growing season winter often comes very suddenly, and snow covers the soil.We invite you to subscribe to Northern Homestead and follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest for the latest updates. .
Transitioning to a No-Till Garden
When I wanted to create gardens in my 0.10-acre yard years ago, I couldn’t find any research to support tilling in my small space.But it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense for a tiny, sloping yard with obstacles such as trees and chunks of concrete in the soil (from a previous owner’s filled-in pool).Instead, I had a front row seat to watch the gradual development of a living ecosystem that was created by partnering with the soil.While true in the long run, a successful transition requires a few other habits to start off right.Tilling also destroys humus, the organic component of soil that is necessary for plant life.Many people switch to the no-till method because they want to take advantage of the soil-building benefits of soil microorganisms.Although alarming, it’s important to note that weeds are common in the first year after stopping tilling.Would you like to learn more about improving the biodiversity of your garden, reducing maintenance, and increasing yield?After weeding, mulch heavily with chopped herbs of all kinds (check out the article about this at Herbal Academy).If letting the garden go like this makes you uneasy, grow a cover crop instead of weeding and mulching.Therefore, the more soil organisms you attract, the higher the rate of absorption, and the fewer amendments you need to purchase.Undigested fertilizer then washes away in the rain, contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and other problematic water quality issues.Although you want to leave the soil intact as much as possible, the top few inches will be gently disturbed for weeding, planting, and harvesting.This activity allows a bit of aeration without destroying soil organism habitat or beneficial fungal networks.In time, your no-till-grown plants will better regulate water, enabling them to withstand super wet or dry periods.Through tilling, soil diseases and pests are exposed to the air and elements, thereby reducing their viability.On one hand, the thriving soil ecology in a no till garden can reduce the chance of any one organism (i.e., pest) becoming a problem.To combat this, keep good garden notes and rotate crops each year, especially after a pest or disease outbreak.At first, the no-till garden is simply trading one activity (tilling) for another (supporting a soil ecosystem).However, you’ll get more joy and satisfaction out of learning how to fertilize, support, and protect your soil.Respect the role of microorganisms and you’ll be on your way to having a successful, abundant garden! .