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
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
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.
On 3 May 2004 17:06:12 -0700, email@example.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
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!
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.
"Allonia" wrote in message Tilling with a Mantis, Honda, Sears or any other
mini-tiller is about the
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
From what I read, some people are success in the large scale no-till.
The ways they apply are sound logical to me.
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.
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.
Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
<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.
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.
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
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
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
The cons are slugs and voles, which I have now beaten, and in warmer
climates the encouragement of disease.
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