The garden has finally dried out enough that I am able to till the soil in preparation for the growing season. How to prepare beds for planting is a subject that most gardeners have an opinion on. Some people till yearly, others double-dig once and don’t turn over the soil again for many years, while some gardeners prefer not to turn the soil over at all. As with most things, there are positives and negatives to each method.
For me personally, I am trying to incorporate a large amount of organic matter into the soil to help break up the heavy clay that we have here. I’m adding compost, leaves, and straw, while also turning in the cover crop of rye that I planted last fall. A tiller is the easiest way to do that. I could double-dig, which I considered, but with 3000 square feet of garden it just seems like too much work, if I’m being honest. Getting my garden ready in a couple of hours versus many hours of digging sounds a lot more pleasant.
After tilling this year I am going to lay out permanent garden paths to prevent soil compaction in the garden beds. Hopefully this will help the soil structure as well. After planting I will mulch with straw around the plants to help hold moisture in the soil and shade out weeds, while adding nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. Compost will be added to add more nutrients throughout the season. A cover crop planted in the fall and left over winter can help to add organic matter and control weeds as well.
If I can do away with tilling in the coming years, in favor of no-till gardening, I will do that. The tilth of the soil will determine which direction I go. If I feel that the soil is loosened up enough, doesn’t compact into a brick hard layer in the summer, and has adequate drainage I might not till anymore. I might test out doing some plants in no till areas and the same plants in tilled areas to see which does better for me. Production is the ultimate goal so whatever produces the most with the least amount of work will ultimately win out.
What are your thoughts on tilling versus no-till? Do you use a different method I didn’t mention that I should explore further?
Chuck From the Rural Side