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Old 07-11-2012, 02:31 PM   #1
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No Till fertilizing?


Been doing a bit of reading about gardening to help boost my abilities and harvests for next year and one topic I keep coming upon is NOT tilling your soils. The reasons I got are:

1) Don't power rototill because it creates till pan at the base of the tine reach. The roots will have a hard time penetrating the till pan and will, in turn, reduce plant size and fertility.
2) Tilling (even with a pitchfork) will destroy worm tubes that help to airate the soil and help water reach the lower roots quickly.
3) Tilling will also disrupt the microorganism structure within the soil. There are varying microorganisms at each "layer" and turning over the soil disrupts and potentially kills these organisms leaving the soil weakend (in terms of microorganisms) compared to the un-tilled soil.

All of this makes perfect sense to me, but what I'm having trouble wrapping my head around is keeping the soil truly fertile without "turning in" composts/maures/etc. as I've seen traditionally done my whole life. The books only say it's not wise to do it, but don't really talk about how you should go about it otherwise. I plant from seed, so digging a large hole to plant a potted plant and mixing compost at the bottom isn't part of my process. Do I just broadcast spread the compost on the surface and let the rains wash the nutrients down?
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Old 07-11-2012, 02:56 PM   #2
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No Till fertilizing?


Its for those reasons dumping your compost on in the fall and letting the weight and wet of the snow and subsequent melt work its way in, is best.

I've had great sucess with my little and former larger plot doing just what you describe. The large plot was virtually all horse compost. The horses digestive system didn't break down the weed seeds they injested so there was always a good deal of weeds to yank.

I never tilled them under, A simple pitch fork under the roots to dislodge them and then a yank, rather than turn the fork full over.

In my little patch these days, after harvest and frost, I dig a pit in the centre and throw in all the waste from flowers and veg plants. Cover with soil. Obviously it doesn't break down over the winter, but by early summer it has. Regardless, I just plant new seeds right on top, again without really turning anything over.
Saves ALOT of back breaking work
good luck and happy gardening
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Old 07-11-2012, 03:03 PM   #3
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No Till fertilizing?


Aaahhh, spread the compost in the fall makes total sense! I've been so confused because I think of fertilizing when one would be tilling and I couldn't see how the nutrients would get in the soil quick enough to truly help root development. Now I do!
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Old 07-12-2012, 06:55 AM   #4
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No Till fertilizing?


If you know a farmer who has horses you will be amazed at how lush everything will be. Even if the muck out is still raw enough that it has hay and straw in it, I would still dump it. Doing it in the fall will eliminate burnt roots too, but as I said be prepared to yank lots of weeds.

I will see if I can dig out a pic of some sunflowers. They must have towered at 12 feet or more. Heads about twice the size of a dinner plate
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:48 AM   #5
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No Till fertilizing?


You cannot really say no-till is good or bad without considering what you are trying to grow and most certainly taking into account what your soil is like. Sometimes the only way to get aeration needed for new planting in heavy soils like clay is to turn it over and amend it.
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Old 07-12-2012, 08:24 AM   #6
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No Till fertilizing?


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You cannot really say no-till is good or bad without considering what you are trying to grow and most certainly taking into account what your soil is like. Sometimes the only way to get aeration needed for new planting in heavy soils like clay is to turn it over and amend it.
You are right again Steve. Clay needs to ammended, but once you have a good mixture, in subsequent years you only need to stick in the fork and gently lift to achieve a good aeration.

Another tip: Never walk on, or turn over clay soil when its wet or you will have a rock hard garden before long.
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Old 07-12-2012, 03:53 PM   #7
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No Till fertilizing?


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Another tip: Never walk on, or turn over clay soil when its wet or you will have a rock hard garden before long.
For sure! Only jackhammers and compactors build more character and are more fun than a rototiller bouncing on the surface of compacted clay!
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Old 07-12-2012, 11:08 PM   #8
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No Till fertilizing?


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Originally Posted by AGWhitehouse View Post
Been doing a bit of reading about gardening to help boost my abilities and harvests for next year and one topic I keep coming upon is NOT tilling your soils. The reasons I got are:

1) Don't power rototill because it creates till pan at the base of the tine reach. The roots will have a hard time penetrating the till pan and will, in turn, reduce plant size and fertility.
2) Tilling (even with a pitchfork) will destroy worm tubes that help to airate the soil and help water reach the lower roots quickly.
3) Tilling will also disrupt the microorganism structure within the soil. There are varying microorganisms at each "layer" and turning over the soil disrupts and potentially kills these organisms leaving the soil weakend (in terms of microorganisms) compared to the un-tilled soil.

All of this makes perfect sense to me, but what I'm having trouble wrapping my head around is keeping the soil truly fertile without "turning in" composts/maures/etc. as I've seen traditionally done my whole life. The books only say it's not wise to do it, but don't really talk about how you should go about it otherwise. I plant from seed, so digging a large hole to plant a potted plant and mixing compost at the bottom isn't part of my process. Do I just broadcast spread the compost on the surface and let the rains wash the nutrients down?
There are far too many variables in gardening, to say that one thing does or does not work. I till our 3 gardens in both the fall and spring. My tiller is rear-mount, on the back of a John Deere garden tractor, so it tills deep and leaves an ideal seed-bed.

I dump a lot of leaves on the gardens before I till them in the fall. Makes for a lot of organic matter, and softens otherwise hard soil. It also leaves ideal conditions for snow to soak in, and for the soil to be nice and mallow in the spring.
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Old 07-13-2012, 09:44 AM   #9
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No Till fertilizing?


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There are far too many variables in gardening, to say that one thing does or does not work. I till our 3 gardens in both the fall and spring. My tiller is rear-mount, on the back of a John Deere garden tractor, so it tills deep and leaves an ideal seed-bed.

I dump a lot of leaves on the gardens before I till them in the fall. Makes for a lot of organic matter, and softens otherwise hard soil. It also leaves ideal conditions for snow to soak in, and for the soil to be nice and mallow in the spring.
I, nor the books, ever said tilling doesn't work, it's just that it's not ideal and/or truly "nature like". From what I've been reading it seems to me that tilling gives you fruit/veg with size X while non-tilling CAN (i've not confirmed this, just basing on my research to date) offer X+1 because the soil micro-structure is better suited to allowing root development. Roots have evolved in soils that weren't roto-tilled, so why the need to now? It's because the stores don't sell ideas, they sell tools.
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Old 07-13-2012, 09:59 AM   #10
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No Till fertilizing?


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I, nor the books, ever said tilling doesn't work, it's just that it's not ideal and/or truly "nature like". From what I've been reading it seems to me that tilling gives you fruit/veg with size X while non-tilling CAN (i've not confirmed this, just basing on my research to date) offer X+1 because the soil micro-structure is better suited to allowing root development. Roots have evolved in soils that weren't roto-tilled, so why the need to now? It's because the stores don't sell ideas, they sell tools.
Actually, gardening itself is not "nature like." Doing what's natural will not ever get a garden raised.

But if you'd like to go no-till, you're certainly more than welcome to try.


Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "...stores don't sell ideas, they sell tools."
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Old 07-13-2012, 10:52 AM   #11
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No Till fertilizing?


On sort of the same line..I coarsely mulch leaves in the fall and just leave them where they fall. In the spring if you pay attention you can see little piles of worm casings where the leave used to be. That is naturally gardening
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Old 07-13-2012, 10:57 AM   #12
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No Till fertilizing?


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Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "...stores don't sell ideas, they sell tools."
Home Depot doesn't make a profit by having an ad that says "Never till again by following these simple steps".

Home Depot makes a profit by having an ad that says "Buy this NEW and improved roto tiller that enhances the distribution of fertilizers into your soils making your plants grow bigger!"
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Old 07-13-2012, 10:59 AM   #13
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No Till fertilizing?


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Home Depot doesn't make a profit by having an ad that says "Never till again by following these simple steps".

Home Depot makes a profit by having an ad that says "Buy this NEW and improved roto tiller that enhances the distribution of fertilizers into your soils making your plants grow bigger!"
That's a pretty crass way of looking at it. Home Depot also sells hoes, shovels, fertilizer and herbicides. They also sell a lot of "how to" books - so maybe that's where they're making their money?


Anyway, my wife & I have been gardening for the better part of 30 years now. We - especially she - are always open to new ideas, and trying new things. But going no-till is not something we're going to be doing.

If it works for you, great!
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Old 07-13-2012, 11:03 AM   #14
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No Till fertilizing?


It works for me....I won't be buying a tiller anytime soon.
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Old 07-13-2012, 11:03 AM   #15
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No Till fertilizing?


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It works for me....I won't be buying a tiller anytime soon.
Do you "work" your soil in any way - with a hoe, spade, otherwise?
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