Till/no till

You will find extremists in any phase of life. When you till do it right. Always try to be tilling into the soil more organic materials so that instead of just pulverizing the soil you are improving it's organic content. There are plenty of decent cover crops out there and even weeds are a good cover crop if you till them under before they can set seed. Don't till wet soils unless your goal is to make adobe. Vary the depth of your tilling or till and move the soil aside and till again to double dig, otherwise you are likely to make a hardpan. If you are tilling between rows set the tiller about an inch or two deep and just till away the weeds, there is no reason to till full depth just to get rid of seedlings. Tillers sit idle a lot, clean oil is less corrosive, and running the thing out of gas when you use it will prevent a lot of carburettor gunk and varnish. If you are going to leave some fuel in the tiller try to run the moter every week or two. These tools take a beating from vibration so going over them periodically and tightening the fasteners is way easier than trying to find the parts that fell off and got tilled under. My first tiller has mixed concrete, dug trenches for water lines, turned compost, tilled the garden and dug a section of my basement. When the tiller parts wore out the engine found a new life running a friends garden shredder. And don't try to do everything on one pass.
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Excellent rpost. Tilling properly for your particular soil is so true.

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While am not an extremist on either side as we use both practices, and surely you chose to post this based on the ongoing thread regarding the subject, there are some areas that could use some clarification to avoid misinformation....
Beecrofter wrote:

    Just to be clear here, you are saying that, even when you add matter when tilling you are still pulverizing but at least you are adding organic matter. I would agree, that at least if you are going to till, add all you can while you are at it, but we are still pulverizing when we till regardless.

    Just as an exercise why does tilling wet soil make adobe?
    Also, I would add that it would be "some" weeds. Many perennial weeds are like starfish in that when you cut them into several pieces (till) you get several starfish. This is true for many grasses and many other weeds. In most cases this is why you have to go back and till your isles (forget the mess in the garden). 3" of mulch in your isles or between rows a couple times a summer would mean few weeds and no tilling at $2.05/gallon and less work as you could tend to your plants rather than your isles. It will also result in soil building and less watering.

    Hardpan can often times occur out of reach of the tiller. Additionally varying the depth of the tilling (called tillage rotation) doesnt always work as it is _heavily_ reliant on moisture content in the soil as well as the soil makeup. Even on farms which practice strict monitoring of hardpan, tillage rotation, and moisture content, it can take several years to see reduction of the pan.     Granted this is for a large commercial farm, but you can see how deep the pan can get in this link: http://www.dave-koenig.com/html/subsoiler_features__.html     It would be much shallower of course in a small food plot (often times around 8"-10") however its still out of reach of even the biggest consumer tillers but perhaps with a lot of double digging you could get to 12". However, I doubt the average individual who buys a tiller to save time and labor is going to double dig that much. Perhaps in a carrot bed maybe.     We use tillage rotation here but also have the ability to subsoil every other year which really helps.

    I guess this is a matter of preference based on ones personal experience. But in my experience leaving a gas equipment dry of fuel for a winter (or longer) wreaks havoc on seals and gaskets in the carburetor and causes deposits on the aluminum due to condensation forming in an open cavity. I find it best to use a fuel stabilizer and leave the fuel tank as full to the top as you can get it and run enough fuel through it to get the stabilizer into the carburetor.     Additionally if you plan to own your small engines for a long time a good thing for winter is a splash of marvel mystery oil into the carb, while running, just before you put it up for winter. This fogs the cylinder with oil and helps reduce corrosion due to condensation as well. Optionally you can pull the plug and put a little in the cylinder and crank it over a few times.

    The reason I post this is because the very use of a tiller is predominantly for one reason and one reason only and that is to reduce manual labor. This, and yet we drag a 10hp motor out several times a year to _weed_ when we could simply mulch and be serving double, triple, or even quadruple duty. Build soil, supress weeds, retain moisture, save $$ on gasoline or perhaps the purchase of the tiller all together.     It seems we lose track of what the tiller purchase is usually for. Granted its a great tool for new plots that need a lot of building however when a 10hp motor becomes necessary for a weeding tool it seems we have lost sight of the prize and may need to look at our need for bigger belts but thats another issue. There is probably another 10hp (or larger) motor on the property generating tons of mulch per summer which could eliminate a lot of the need for the other and result in far less work and better soil to boot.     Now if mixing concrete or digging foundations is your aim, I cant help you there. ;)
Mark
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