Newbie question on tilling

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I've recently come into possession of a Honda Harmony FG100 mini-tiller. It's perfect for my 20 x 25 vegetable garden, and I've tilled the whole thing up very nicely. It makes a beautiful tilth.
My question is this: When I see other people's gardens, they have these wonderful rows with the vegetables on sort of long raised mounds, and depressed paths between the rows. How the heck do they get that? Do you have to rake after tilling? Or is there some technique that I'm not aware of? When I till, the dirt just goes everywhere.
-- Mike
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You take the soil from the path and put it into the bed with a shovel. Manual labor. The best way to do it would be to lay out your garden and then simply do this one time and then in subsequent years you dont till the whole garden just the beds. There is no need to waste time, fuel, effort on the paths so build them once and then forget about them.
The next step would be to scrap the tiller all together and move towards no till gardening and then you will really be building some serious soil. You will never walk in the beds, mulch them heavily, and never till again.
The tiller will still be handy for other things but at that point dont take it in the garden any longer as it ruins your hard work.
Good Luck, Mark
Mike wrote:

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On 3 May 2004 17:06:12 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Mike) wrote:

You gotta fritz around with your dirt. Rake some up into mouds or rows; just walking around will compress the dirt into 'paths'. A tiller, as you've discovered, just tills. You have to supply the finishing work.
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Tilling with a Mantis, Honda, Sears or any other mini-tiller is about the second worst thing you can do as a gardener. The soil is actually pulverized into the finest particles of the soil possible. This will inhibit any and all possibilities of existing life forms of earthworms and night crawlers to exist in the soil. Additionally, the soil will compact to concrete conditions after the first rain!
(Mike) wrote:

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Hi Allonia,

It do create a crusting after the rain, if the soil does not cover with mulch after till. But to mix in organic matter for a fast cure of bad soil type, I do think rototill are good for it.
My soil are black heavy clay soil. The black color not due to high organic, but because of lack of oxygen. People here use it to make brick. It's low PH and high iron, a fern are dominating here. After a rain, water can stay there for days.
For each inch of my soil, I till in one inch of rice hull, up to four foot deep. After the tilling complete, I transplant my plant on it, and cover with mulch. This work for me. Without doing in this ways, all ground cover I tried before will not survive.
Regards, Wong
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"Allonia" wrote in message Tilling with a Mantis, Honda, Sears or any other mini-tiller is about the

pulverized
What are you taking about????
I have never had any problems with the soil getting compacted after rains of any type.If what you are saying is true than tell me why the semi-organic farmer neighbor of mine rototills his fields than plants his carrots/parsnips and beets in the same field.When he harvests the soil is not compacted even after a few mopnths of rain or irrigation. I'm a para with a large garden that has permanent isles/rows. My rows are about 20"s wide that are rototilled yearly to blend in the compost.I have no compaction occurring in my garden rows at all.
Frogleg Another method to make raised beds are get your lumber and construct your large form for the raised bed.Than dig out the same amount of soil that the sides of the raised bed are(say you used 10inch wide boards or the sides are that high)leaving a few inches for the sides to rest on.Than fill in with some old hay or other compost or even new balled hay where you removed the soil.Pack this filler and replace the removed soil.You will need to get additional soil to fill up the raised bed completly. There you go, you now have a raised bed. Or as other poster said rake up and mound the soil to have a freeform raised bed.
Jerome
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JRYezierski wrote:

    What the poster was talking about is over tilling and especially with high speed sharp tined tillers. You basically create powder which is not the best thing for gardening. You can do some reading about "til pan" and no till gardening and learn about the negatives of tilling. Many will argue that tillers have no place in the garden however this isnt always true in the real world. We are small scale organic farmers and in many cases we use 3PT hitch tillers on our tractors however we are very careful not to over till.     As you state, one of the best places for use of a tiller is when you are starting from very poor ground or grass. They are almost essential in the first couple years unless you can employ countless quantities of low wage or slave labor. However, if you have the ability to build your soil heavily in those first couple years the tiller should never see that soil again once its built up. Of course if you have the time, energy, and manpower, you can do away with the tiller from the start but in the real world when you are taking a piece of ground from say red clay covered with grass to a viable piece of land to grow on, a tiller is almost a must. This goes for most poor soils. However, tilling in general is not the best option if it can be avoided. It can be, but on larger scales it gets very very difficult.
Mark

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wrote:

I am waiting for some organic purist to declare all agriculture is damaging to the ecosystem, and we should become gatherers, living on such roots and shoots as 'nature' provides.
"No till" farming has benefits mostly related to reducing soil erosion. This is scarcely a problem in a home garden plot.
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This of course is incorrect. No-till substantially helps with weed reduction, by leaving buried seeds buried, and soil structure improvement (if coupled with organic mulch). No tiller will ever produce a soil as fine as earthworms can. Minor gains are also to be had from improved soil fertility, again thanks to the eartworms.
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Frogleg wrote:

I doubt no-till will ever be the norm but it is far more than an erosion control and makes complete sense if you can employ it. As I stated however this can be hard to do on a massive scale. The mere amount of organic mulch that would be needed on large commercial farms would be overwhelming in generation and application. No-till does produce far better soil and therefore growing conditions for crops however I dont think the increased yeilds of no-till practices would offset the expense (both dollars and environmental) of going no-till on mass.
That said, its foolish not to practice it on a home level as it is a better practice in every facet and the results will show this. Better yeilds, less pests, less weeds, less water. All things every gardener lusts for on a daily basis.
Mark
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I didn't say erosion control was the *only* presumed benefit of no-till farming. Soil compaction is reduced by not using heavy machinery in the fields. Fossil fuel is saved and pollution avoided by not using heavy machinery in the fields. (I wonder if harvest is by hand.)
As I understand it, no-till means no weed-clearing, with planting or seeding accomplished by slits or holes poked through existing organing matter. I fail to understand how this reduces weeds. I also understand that crop yields are *lower* with no-till, but one feels so good about being 'green' that it doesn't matter.
I am also curious how no-till produces "better soil." It certainly can result in fields where topsoil isn't blown or carried away in rainwater runoff, but I fail to see how that improves soil quality.

Please elaborate on "better practice in every facet." Give me a few facets.
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    Here is a good link for you to read. It was 6th on the list from Google under "no till gardening".      Mark
Frogleg wrote:

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http://www.farm-garden.com/primers/26/no-till-gardening.htm
Mark & Shauna wrote:

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I think what puts my back up is someone asking a simple question (about tilling in this case) and immediately having someone jump on him saying "no, no -- you can't do that -- that's awful -- do it *my* way." In all fairness, your first answering post wasn't quite in that category, but there *are* some like that in the thread. And I haven't been as kind as I might.
The reference you cite is a mildly partisan one, though with some interesting information. However, quoting one of *its* references, "In Nature, the earth is not tilled, and fertilizers (dead plants and animals, fallen leaves, etc.) begin as mulches on the soil's surface." In nature -- excuse me, Nature -- food crops are not cultivated except by accident.
I'm sure there are benefits to this method, as there are to many others. However, few regimens are suitable in all areas and all situations. Theoretical and anecdotal evidence of benefits notwithstanding, one supposes that if no-till had no downside, industrial and family farming would be revolutionized, which is clearly not the case. Farmers and gardeners are practical people. They see that some methods aid them in their goals, and others don't.
The invention of the plow may have been a disaster for the maintenance of the "soil horizon" and soil "crumb structure," but it allowed the cultivation of food for an ever-expanding population.
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Frogleg wrote:

This is why I said no-till will probably never be a large scale commercial solution, however if you look into commercial farming they are moving as close to it as possible while still maintaining mechanized production to keep the yields up. The subsoil industry is cranking for instance.
The simple fact is what has been stated over and over, that there IS no perfect solution. I cant believe that after a few million years of evolution this cant be "unsaid" but it seems in almost every conversation it must be repeated over and over.
I feel, on a large commercial scale, there is a happy medium between the two practices with a lean towards machinery and away from mulching, but as you move towards the small scale and then down to home food plots, the happy medium can become heavily leaning towards no-till. But, especially in the US, schedules, free time, laziness, and so on mean that turning the key on the tiller will always be the choice over anything that involves manual labor.
Personally on our small farm we lean towards no till for selfish reasons, less and easier weeding, better soils, constant amendment, and so on. With tillage you normally add less to your soils and some of what you add is lost due to the practice. However like I also said, in our large plots we "take the hit" and use tilling in the interest of speed and production but it is crystal clear in practice which is best but we dont have access to large quantities of slave labor to implement no-till on the whole.
Mark
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Hi Mark,

From what I read, some people are success in the large scale no-till. The ways they apply are sound logical to me.

the
The mulch does not need to come from outside, it can be the residue left over there by previous crop or cover crop mown down.

speed
we
no-till
Here we don't have slave as well. I'm planning to set up communities, no-till do provide job for those that don't have much choice, this will reduce crime that due to unemployment.
Regards, Wong
-- Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
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<lots of snippage>
So you extol no-till farming, but till where it's time-saving and promotes productivity? And don't see a contradiction in this? You'd use no-till exclusively if you had unlimited labor available? Your own experience is contrary to your stated position. I sympathize with desire to farm and garden in a 'gentle' way and to recommend that to others. But aside from subsidized experiments and voluntary labor, it doesn't seem to be adequate for profitable crop production in the real world. To me, this is similar to the 'revolution' in growing and selling 'organic' foods. Yes, people are "demanding" organic products, but only those who can afford to pay a considerable premium.
It is *good* that people are experimenting with new/old methods, and doubtless some successful techniques will percolate into the mainstream. Look at how composting has become virtually ubiquitous in home gardening. Success can't be argued with. But success has to be measured in *real*, practical improvement. For good or ill, agriculture is driven by the marketplace.
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wrote:>

would it not be best for this thread to move to sci.agriculture? This, after all, rge. If one wants to be organic in a small garden or plot in most temperate climates, no till is best at saving labor (long term) for a given yield. For soybeans farms, it's a different story.
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On 16 May 2004 10:10:15 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@my-deja.com (simy1) wrote:

I didn't realize rec.gardens.edible had become a moderated group. Do you have any other new rules we should know about?
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(simy1) wrote:

I hate protracted arguments, so here is a brief summary of why no-till is best for the gardener (or even the small herb farmer). There are fundamental differences between a gardener and a farmer. A farmer does it for a living (for profit). A gardener does it as recreation and also for health.
1) a farmer does mostly annuals, a gardener does a mixture. Farmers that do perennials (like herbs) tend to do no-till, unless they want to kill their asparagus plot to put something else in there.
2) gardeners spend a disproportionate amount of time weeding compared to farmers. Mulch and no-till minimize that time.
3) farmer mostly seeds, gardener mostly plants. Mulch is incompatible with seeding, and I always have to plan ahead about that so that a few plots are clear of mulch (there are a few greens that I prefer to seed, and this is best done by mulching with leaves, which dissipate in one year). Where I don't mulch, I have weeds. It is a breeze to plant right through the mulch, and it is a do-it-once job that agrees with my philosophy. Mulch and automatic seeding are not really compatible, so the farmer is right to avoid mulching.
4) farmer pays water 1/3 to 1/5 of what I pay.
5) farmer has automatic irrigation. Even if I have it, I have to water seedlings and plants by hand until established. Mulch reduces that time.
6) it is inconceivable for farmer to leave at critical times during the growing season for three weeks, but I do that all the time. The mulched plant takes that much better than the unmulched plant.
7) farmer has a tractor, which services a large tract of land and therefore pays for itself. A tiller, I don't know, costs $500? For that kind of money I can build a large hoophouse that will give me many more veggies (and a more extended season) that a tiller can ever provide. Maintenance-free, too, as a hoophouse has no carburetor. Fighting with a recalcitrant piece of equipment is the least entertaining part of gardening (gardening is supposed to be relaxing).
8) a tiller will never give as good a tilth as no-till, and makes weeding worse.
9) farmer has to pay bills, can not wait for no till to work. My parents took a plot of clay and with mulch, taprooted veggies and other ground-breaking veggies such as favas and potatoes, brought it to heel within a few years (and enjoyed it ever since).
9) a farmer tills, applies herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer. I do none of that, because no-till improves soil fertility, improves plant resistance to disease, and the mulch and no-till block out weeds. I am very happy that my food is free of that, thank you very much.
10) farmer has to follow market, I do not. I can put down 3 inches of wood chips (a somewhat harsh material that agrees with only a few veggies, and takes two to three years to go) knowing that this year I will plant tomatoes, the next garlic and so on and so forth.
11) I have much better access to my land. As you posted earlier, a farmer would have to have dump trucks come in and leave deep ruts, and then it needs to be spread out. I can drag a few tarps full of leaves to my beds and be done with mulching for the year in a couple of hours.
The cons are slugs and voles, which I have now beaten, and in warmer climates the encouragement of disease.
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