tammylsomers
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I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weekend?

I decided to buy a tiller from a pawn shop (paid $110 for a Troybilt that sells new for $299) instead of doing raised beds that I purchased lumber for. I don't have a truck or the back to haul so much soil so this seemed a better option. Can I till this weekend and be ready to plant next weekend? I have no idea how far in advance I should prepare and what my chances of success are. I'm in Zone 7a and know that lettuce and cabbage are things I'm looking at the soonest. I appreciate any help in dealing with Oklahoma City in timing. I have seen dates run from April 1st -20th as being the last frost range. :?:

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rainbowgardener
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

Yes, you can till and then plant right away as long as you didn't till in anything that needs to age like fresh manure.

Nothing wrong with planting right in the ground, especially if you have plenty of decent soil. The reasons people do raised beds are generally either that they have very limited space and want to garden it very intensively, or they have very bad soil (very heavy clay or very sandy, too acid, too alkaline, etc). In the bad soil example, it is a lot easier to get to good soil just by filling a bed with it, than by amending the ground.

If your soil is decent, go for it. But understand that since you didn't start with a whole bed of hand built enriched soil, you will have to work a little harder at enriching your ground. If you have compost, fall leaves, or other organic amendments or whatever you will be fertilizing with, spread it before you till and till it in.

Here's an OK planting guide:

https://osufacts.okstate.edu/docushare/d ... 004web.pdf
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digitS'
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

If you have lawn grass or weeds growing on that ground, it would be best to remove them before tilling, tammylsomers.

It seems that a lot of folks think that a single tilling will kill all the plants that are already there. The truth is that it may take repeat passes over that ground, maybe over an entire season, to kill the plants. Removing grass sod is quite a bit of work but it is better than having the ground turn right back into lawn after you have planted your vegetables.

Some plants can be broken into a hundred pieces and each piece will regrow! There may be hand tools that will keep them intact and make complete removal easier.

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applestar
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

I have only ever tried running a walk behind tiller once when DH rented one. He's a big guy so he got a big and presumably a powerful one, and I thought the thing was going to shake me off. It's nothing like pushing a lawn mower. He'd gone over the ground once already looking like he was fighting a bull calf (or something -- I just imagined that's what it would look like) but it was difficult to walk on the clumpy ground and hold on to that "beast".

Never again, Haha.

I much prefer sheet mulching raised beds of various heights (doesn't need sides if you have plenty of space to make unsupported raised beds). Gentle prodding with garden fork to fracture the ground is all it takes. Planting right away just depends on amount of good soil mix used in the top layers.

When. I'm feeling up to it, I sometimes double dig a previously sheet mulched and planted bed which is already pretty loose in the top 12-18"
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jal_ut
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

Lots of options in tillers. You say Troybilt? For that price, I don't think you got the Troybilt Horse? The Horse is quite a large tiller with two traction tires that actually hold the tiller back and make it dig. This one is a joy to run. The smaller tillers that have only a bar to hold them back are not quite so easy to operate. However, if you adjust the depth bar so that it digs without depending on the operator to hold it back they do quite well. Don't try to go too deep the first pass and plan on several passes to get it tilled up nicely.

Gardening in the soil that is on your lot is a good way to go. Consider that most of the worlds food is grown in such soils. Soils vary considerably in their composition though and will likely benefit from the addition of compost.

What is growing on the area now? As noted, some weeds and grasses are hard to kill. Here Kentucky Bluegrass is a common lawn grass, and it has quite a sturdy root system, but if you till it up, wait a week and till it again, it pretty much gets it. Soil freshly broken up from lawn is fertile the first year because of all the decomposing organic matter. You do need to till it enough to kill the grass though.

I have one large area, that was grass, that I tilled twice last fall. Right now there is not much green grass showing. It seems to have pretty well killed the grass. I plan to till it again when it is dry enough then plant.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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bryce d
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

I had a spot that was nice grass. I plowed it with my little tractor every month or two all last year. Making sure that all the green was covered. I now have a beautiful spot with no grass, and ready for seeds.

The other area is raised bed I just poured 4 inches of dirt on the grass and raked it and planted. It grew great also.
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tammylsomers
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

Thanks for all the great info! I haven't tilled yet but plan to do so this weekend. The tiller I bought is one of the smaller ones but hubby is going to handle that for me along with my strapping teenage son. :D There is grass there already but noticed that the ground is very soft and almost spongy. I plan to check the ph to see what I have as I haven't walked on ground like this before. Hopefully that means it will be easier to till and only need amending. I appreciate all the great advice!

imafan26
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

It is not good to work wet soil. It ruins the soil texture so make sure the soil isn't soggy.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

Definitely right. If you till wet soil, it clumps up into big chunks that are very hard to break down again.

How much is too wet? Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it. You should not be able to squeeze any water out of it. The soil ball you make should fall apart again when you poke it.
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Ohio Tiller
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

And be prepared to fight weeds for the first couple years. When you till new ground you bring things to the surface that have been waiting their turn to screw with you!

Black River
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Re: I want a garden. Can I till my soil and plant next weeke

You said the soil is spongy, hopefully it will drain well. You really won't know what type soil you're dealing with until you till a little bit, I guess. I have dealt with breaking a new garden quite a bit. Remove as much of the grass as you can before tilling, and then after you till the first couple of times, use a leaf rake to remove the tilled up grass. I broke some new ground last year, and had to rake Bermuda out of it again this year, so it will take a while. You'll eventually get it all out though, just be patient, it may take a couple of years.

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