Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2437
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:31 pm
Location: Latrobe Pa.

Spading versus tilling

I usually spade my gardens and take most of the grass roots out as I spade I really enjoy spading and it seems like good exersize! I got a older type troy built rototiller last year with the wheels in the front! I was thinking that if I till my garden with lots of grass roots that I would have tons of weeds! I also read that tilling destroys the structure of soil in regards to levels or layers.. I guess if I place fertilizer on the surface before I rototill it would work better! Would a cover crop be even better? Also spading puts alot of the surface seeds to deep to cause a problem where a tiller mixes them so much they usually come up more is that correct? Does tilling make the soil dry out faster? Is tilling twice at two weeks appart a good idea?

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7500
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 7:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

A Search of the forum using the phrase "no-till" returns 97 hits, so as you can tell, this is a subject hotly debated hereabouts. Check out some of the threads, and you'll see what other members say in support of tilling and in support of not tilling their garden/plots.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2006 12:13 am
Location: Cranberry Country, SE MA - zone 6?

Personally, I think it is better not to till at all. Just mulch as much as you can. And read some of Ruth Stout's books. Spading may not be as bad as rototilling, but it still destroys the soil structure.

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2097
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:27 pm
Location: Mid Ohio

It depends on your soil. A lot of the 'no til' philosophy come from farmland that was tilled twice a year for decades with little organic input, so it was one of the causes of soil breakdown. I have heavy clay soil that I have only shovel turned. It is too clumpy to plant seeds and needs to be tilled to smooth it out befor I can think about something like carrots. It also compacts each year and does not do well without some sort of disturbance to loosen it up. If I had sandy soil I probably wouldn't bother tilling.

To prevent a til-pan from forming all you need to do is shovel turn the garden once avery few years to break up the pan (or not til to the same depth every time). Til-pans don't form in all cases. From what I understand they need the right combination of soil minerology and rainfall.

The best thing to do about grass seeds is to use a good heavy mulch to smother weed sprouts. Turning and tilling do a little, but seeds blow in from outside the garden all year long.

Cool Member
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:36 pm
Location: CT

Sounds like virgin ground your breaking there with all the grass and roots. I'd take advantage of the tiller to improve that soil the best you can. I'd blend in as much organic matter as you can find. Once you get your soil where you want it (soil testing) then you can worry about no till practices.

Better mulch to keep those weeds/grasses down.

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