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To till or not to till-what should I do?

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pictures_n_petals blog photos
Joined: 3/06/2009
Location: Way Upstate New York
Posts: 15
Posted: Apr/24/2009 8:53 AM PST

Well spring has sprung in Upstate NY and it is time to get out and starting getting the garden ready for my veggies!

My issue is this:

Poor soil in hubby dug large hole (10 feet by 30 feet about 3 feet deep) with his backhoe (he is heavy equipment operator with some of his own machinery) so when I asked for him to dig a hole-well lets say we could have build another house! We filled the hole back in with compossed manure from a friends cow/horse farm! The guys tilled it in really well.

Great results the first 3 years-each year adding a bit more composs from the farm, tilling it in.

Last year the two "BRAINS" of the bunch decided that it was time for some lime-it looked like it snowed again in my garden, they tilled that in-I was not home and was unaware of what they were planning. Needless to say-nothing grew in this huge plot of white/black dirt. Lettuce, lettuce, lettuce could not get rid of it fast enough so finally pulled the plants. Everythng else died.

Now this year they want to add and till more. Once they till it is very mushy all year-right now I can walk on it without lossing my shoes.

My big question is this-should I let them till it again? There are some weeds growing (tons of them from the manure). I am thinking of burning off the top, raking it down into the soil and just planting, mulching and harvest (hopfully). After harvest in fall then till everything in for winter.

Hubby thinks I am nuts (he knows nothing of gardening other then dig hole-till-watch wife do the rest of the work-eat the fruit of the season!) I have read that it is not needed to till every year and that you should only till 3-4 inches deep. These two "FARMERS" till way down deep at least 6-8 inches! I have even seen articles of gardens that they did not till and only added new material in mounds for the veggies each year. That too much tilling brings the weed seeds to the top and provides too much oxegen for them-thus lots of weeding needed and a very mushy garden.

Any advise that I can get is a help! Now that I wrote a big book on this....what should I do if anything?
wolfwalkerpa photos
Joined: 3/20/2007
Location: central Pa.
Posts: 892
Posted: Apr/24/2009 11:35 AM PST

If The soil is lose and easy to push my hand in i never till .This is my third full year using raised beds and adding a lot of compost and composted manure i can almost bury my arm in the soil and its full of earth worms.I have 6 raised beds with only one being a problem last fall i turned the soil over and added more manure to the bottom and mixed the old soil as i refilled the bed.My old flat ground garden had a bad habit of getting hard pan at the rototiller depth.After all the typing i would say its a judgment call by you.But i would have a soil test done to check the Ph of the soil.
ChrisBorders blog photos
Joined: 2/08/2009
Location: Augusta GA
Posts: 45
Posted: Apr/24/2009 4:47 PM PST

You definately want to have a soil test done...especially after all that lime was added. And WOW...when your hubby tills...he don't mess around! I never thought to use a backhoe...! I tilled this year only because I was breaking hard new ground but next year I'm going to all raised beds and will be planting using the square foot method I've just learned's really neat and seems very workable. I don't think I'd till this time around but I would suggest using a pitchfork to loosen up the earth a bit and do my weeding then. Good luck and let us know how it goes...Chris
mudpies blog photos
Joined: 3/09/2009
Location: south central Ontario
Posts: 391
Posted: Apr/24/2009 6:46 PM PST

We maintain a huge vegetable garden - almost an acre - so my husband tills between the rows to keep the weeds at bay. Both he and my brother-in-law get a little crazy early in the spring when they get their hands on their tillers. I keep some perennial flowers at the top of the vegetable garden and have to mark out a line beyond which my husband is not allowed to enter with the tiller. My brother-in-law managed to till out all the raspberries my sister had planted the year previous in her garden. How does one fail to notice raspberry canes? I think many husbands need close supervision when they get their hands on anything that runs on gasoline.
damethod blog photos
Joined: 5/04/2008
Location: Miami, FL
Posts: 637
Posted: Apr/25/2009 7:01 AM PST

Originally posted by mudpies
I think many husbands need close supervision when they get their hands on anything that runs on gasoline.

LOL guilty as charged!
witt blog photos
Joined: 3/28/2008
Location: Lancaster, SC
Posts: 16643
Posted: Apr/26/2009 1:31 AM PST

I think wolf has the right idea. Tilling is for breaking up hard soil and working in compost, etc. It doesn't have to be done if you have no problem putting your hand in it. You would certainly benefit with a soil test. Some county extensions will do it for free, some charge about five dollars. It's worth it. It sounds like you have too much of something.
GuiltTrip blog photos
Joined: 6/18/2008
Location: Florida
Posts: 755
Posted: Apr/26/2009 3:29 AM PST

I sheet compost my rows , I do run my tiller down the middles and throw it on top of my ground formed beds, so the earth worms Know, "Don't get in the Middles" Honest I do turn some up, but the beds have pleanty, I throw a layer of hay over the bed, tiller the horse poo/oak leaves and grass cuttings in the middles and throw it on the existing raised bed.

Soil; Test the Soil, order a Real test or Pick up a cheap soil test kit, "Stop adding until Ya see if it Needs it"

Nothing is Safe when Tiller Running, God I love my Tiller, GT


Lastniceguy photos
Joined: 3/01/2009
Location: So Cal
Posts: 135
Posted: May/01/2009 6:32 PM PST

No pro here and I only wish I had a tiller...but farmers plow after every crop I believe
pictures_n_petals blog photos
Joined: 3/06/2009
Location: Way Upstate New York
Posts: 15
Posted: May/04/2009 8:03 AM PST

Ok-Here is where I am at today-

Made hubby ditch the till behind the tractor-told him it was not coming into the yard or else....

So he desides that a walk behind is the way to go-borrowed that one from a friend at work-has tilled the entire thing at least twice with 3 passes each time! Guess what I see now? More Lime that came to the surface from last year! I contacted my local County Extension office and will be taking a soil sample to them tomorrow! Now we will see what he has done!

He claims that the "Old Timers" always tilled-I asked him if he was an "Old Timer".

I will keep everyone posted! I will also list any funeral arrangements that I had to make! Ha Ha!
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