Good Gardening: No Rototiller

Mar 7, 2016

The weather has warmed, the soil is dry (er), and  the spring planting season has begun- Gentlemen, don't start your engines.

Credit John Fischer

  One of the worst things you can do to a garden is run a rototiller through it.  The look of fresh tilled earth is indeed very enticing- especially if you are a weed seed or a cat.  But the web of soil life that develops beneath the surface, and the worms that do so much to help our gardens are both hurt by the spinning blades of that noisy gas powered machine that many consider an essential part of home grown produce.

   Here's how to get away from tilling.

Many of the plants we grow need a small turned over area for their roots, and a large empty space for plant development.  Tomatoes are a great example.  One little plant every three feet.  Room to grow in between.  Turning over the whole area invites trouble, and again disturbs the natural soil processes.  


  Instead of a tiller, use a shovel on the small spot where your plant will go in.  Work in a little fertilizer at the same time, and mulch over the large area left empty while you wait for the plants to fill the space.

  The same system- a little shoveling, a lot of undisturbed soil, is also ideal for peppers, broccoli, cabbage, squash hills, even rows of corn.


  There are some crops best planted in beds of freshly turned soil.  Carrots, lettuce, beets, and most salad greens should be planted in blocks wide enough for you to reach into the middle from the rows.   

  A shovel and rake in tandem will do a great job prepping those small areas.  If you really love the noise of a tiller, and like having your arms pulled out of their sockets, use the tiller for those small sections of your garden.


  Just apologize to the worms, and the soil first.