Gardening Blunder #7

February 23, 2006

The previous gardening blunder looked at ways to reduce weed growth in the garden, today’s final blunder examines potential gardening problems that can result from the overuse of garden tillers.

Gardening Blunder: Frequent Garden Tilling

Are you one of the many gardeners who till their gardens each spring, and sometimes again in the fall, unaware of the disadvantages created by frequent garden tilling? There are alternative ways to prepare the garden for planting that will make your efforts easier and more productive.

One of the major disadvantages to tilling is that it can prevent you from planting at the proper time in the spring. That’s because you have to wait until the ground has thawed and is dry enough to be tilled, otherwise you run the risk of ruining the structure and texture of your soil.

Garden Tilling Can Delay Spring Planting

Depending on your location, the amount of precipitation, and other weather considerations you may not be able to till your garden until much later in the spring than you and your plants would like. This is an even greater problem if your garden is located in a low-lying area or takes a longer time to dry out in the spring.

I don’t till my gardens to prepare them for planting and can start growing much sooner than I would if I waited until the ground could be tilled. This provides a big jump on the growing season and allows hardy plants to receive an early start out in the garden.

Another disadvantage of tilling is that you really don’t loosen the soil to a depth of more than six inches, maybe eight if you’re lucky. Just look at the length of the tines on your tiller, there’s no way that they can loosen the soil as deeply as the plants would prefer.

Other Problems Resulting from Tilling the Garden

Tilling can even cause soil compaction by creating a hardpan, which is a layer of compacted soil just below the level of soil loosened by tilling. Soil compaction also occurs during the tilling as you walk through the garden while wrestling with your tiller.

Other pitfalls from tilling your garden are the disruption of the soil’s structure, damage to the population of earthworms, and the fact that tilling can encourage excessive weed production.

Finally, there’s the expense and hassle of using and maintaining the machine itself. It sits around idle and rusting except for the couple of hours a year that you need to use it. If you hire someone to perform the annual chore for you, well then you’re dependent on the weather and their schedule before you can start gardening.

Tilling Alternative: Try Raised Bed Gardening

Raised bed gardening is an effective strategy that enables you to do away with that big bulky machine. Once your raised beds are established you’ll never need to till again, but will have a garden that resists compaction and is ready for planting whenever the time is right.





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