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Old 10-22-2010, 09:04 AM   #1
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden? I had a man who owns a local nursery who said that you ruin the ground when you till the soil. I've never heard this before. Is this true?

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Old 10-24-2010, 04:11 PM   #2
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


No, just till the flower bed.

Seriously though, I can't begin to imagine why someone would say that. The only slightly remote concern I have ever heard of is that with tilling you bring weed seeds to the surface which can then germinate. Frankly, when I have the chance I use a backhoe to break up the ground at least 12 inches deep, then go over it as usual with a tiller. I just like it that way. As a matter of fact, I just rented a tractor to dig up and move some mature shrubs (rhody and crepe myrtle) and while I had it rented for the weekend I made use of it for some other beds, a couple new ones and I just wanted to bump out a couple.

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Old 10-24-2010, 04:11 PM   #3
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


Some of our county's Master Gardeners explained to me that if you over-till the soil, you damage its structure, especially if you try to mess with it when it's wet. They said you can compact the soil, getting rid of the natural passageways made by worms and bugs, and making it difficult for the plants to live there. They encouraged just adding compost and working it in with a pitchfork if possible. They said for a new bed that does need to be tilled, do it gently when the soil is dry.
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Old 10-24-2010, 04:31 PM   #4
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


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especially if you try to mess with it when it's wet.
Now that's a whole different story. DO NOT TILL WET SOIL!!!!
Did they explain what soil structure is?

BYW-
I used to be a GA Master Gardner. I would be extremely interested in knowing at least your state (and preferably your county) so I could research and document this information. I am also a Georgia Certified Landscape Professional. I am employed by a local parks department as a horticulturalist and I am responsible for all our flower beds.

I suppose at least in theory that it would be possible to over-till, but if I can't plant by hand, it's not ready. I mean literally by bare hand. I use a trowel for measuring and plant with one a lot of the time only because it is in my hand. Most of my annual beds are 80-100 plants and it might take an hour to plant, 30 minutes if somebody helps hand them to me after an hour already of prepping: till, add amendments, till again, add fertilizer and stir it in (re-till the top few inches).
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:21 PM   #5
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


Downunder, I defer to your knowledge -- it's much greater than mine. Your post wasn't there when I was typing that response. It wasn't meant to contradict you.
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Old 10-25-2010, 01:32 PM   #6
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


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It wasn't meant to contradict you.
I didn't take it as such. I was just surprised that MG's would tell you this unless something has come out that I haven't kept up on. Or maybe we weren't all on the same page. It's possible I am misunderstanding what they meant but I just cannot imagine not tilling a flower bed.

Basically, texture is a quality of soil, i.e. loamy, sandy, clay, etc. versus structure which is the arrangement of the different layers. Sort of like comparing cotton to polyester to wool. Or consider a bowl of cornbread mix. You have cornmeal, maybe flour, eggs, oil and milk. Each has a different texture. So, yes tilling does rearrange the soil structure like stirring all the ingredients in the bowl does. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Now I'm hungry!
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Old 11-15-2010, 11:08 AM   #7
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


Interesting... I never thought of tilling the flower bed... makes me wonder if I should till my 200' bed next year or not before I plant. I plan to just spray with roundup then lay wet newspaper down just to make sure I get every last thing dead. Then dig my holes for planting all the evergreens. I plan on making the hole 3-4 times larger than the root ball then mix 50/50 my soil and garden soil to allow a lot of room to grow before it hits the hard stuff. Ever thought of doing it this way instead of tilling?

I planted a bed around my house, down the side, and around back. All in all the bed was around 125' x 5 feet wide. I never tilled the ground. I just removed the sod, planted and them mulched. Sometimes I have to pull a weed here and there, but then again who doesn't? Some of those plants have been in their for a few years while others are new that I just planted this year. Never lost a single one and it looks like they are doing pretty good.

The large bed outback, I definitely can't remove all the sod by hand since it will be around 200' x 40'. If I rented a machine to remove the sod, I'll then have to refill will more soil. Then if I put the new soil down, the rocks I lay on top will sink down in creating a muddy mess. The way I'm doing it the dead grass on top with the harder ground will serve as a base to put my gravel on so the ground wont sink as much.
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Old 11-15-2010, 06:57 PM   #8
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


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Ever thought of doing it this way instead of tilling?
Not really, considering I do it for a living. I will confess that I was in a hurry one time planting the garden and used post-hole diggers to plant tomatoes. But then, they like to be planted deep.

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I plan on making the hole 3-4 times larger than the root ball then mix 50/50 my soil and garden soil to allow a lot of room to grow before it hits the hard stuff.
Isn't that about the same as tilling 100 individual holes? If it works for you, great! That's really the bottom line. If they all grow equally, then it works.
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Old 11-16-2010, 06:50 AM   #9
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


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Not really, considering I do it for a living. I will confess that I was in a hurry one time planting the garden and used post-hole diggers to plant tomatoes. But then, they like to be planted deep.


Isn't that about the same as tilling 100 individual holes? If it works for you, great! That's really the bottom line. If they all grow equally, then it works.
If you do it for a living, I could see why you would want to till instead of dig holes. If I did it for a living I wouldn't want to dig hundreds of holes a day.

It's not really the same as tilling 100 individual holes. When I dig my holes I take a shovel and just do 1 large scoop. Takes about 2-4 seconds to dig the hole then time to plant. After spending hours tilling the yard, you would still have to dig that same hole.

When I built our house I had a landscaper till and plant our yard. Well after he did this I had to go back and redo the left side (300 feet x 60 feet). No one told him that you cant drive a truck on unplanted wet ground lol. Long store short I had these mounds in that side of my yard from his tires. So I had to redo it myself. I rented a hand tiller and within minutes I stoped b/c it was impossible. Partly because my soil is pretty hard and mostly clay/rocks. I stopped and paid someone to till that side of my yard with a large machine. They did an alright job, but still broke his machine from all the rocks. It took them a long time as well to till with that machine.

I think it just depends on how many plants you have to plant. If your talking 20 plants it would be easier IMO to dig the hole and plant. If your planting 100+ plants, it might be easier to till to losen the soil before you dig the holes.
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:13 PM   #10
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


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No one told him that you cant drive a truck on unplanted wet ground lol.
And no one ....; well I guess he just didn't care when my builder graded a low place STANDING in water after heavy rains on a JD 450 bulldozier. I personally watched him do this!

What I meant by tilling numerous holes is that from the perspective of, "I plan on making the hole 3-4 times larger than the root ball then mix 50/50 my soil and garden soil to allow a lot of room to grow" you have, in effect, tilled all those areas. If 3-4 times larger is still only a shovel sized hole, then you must plant mostly 4-6 inch plants.

I just find it easier to break up the ground initially, spread an inch or two or three of whatever organics is appropriate, and till the whole bed at one time. The area is more uniform, all you have to do then is scoop a hole and plant, and it is easier to reposition plants if need be. And just for a PS, I don't consider a bed ready to plant in if I can't pull a hole open with my bare hands but I usually use a trowel of shovel for consistant spacing. I get a little crooked when I am face to face with the plants untill I stand up and look back down the row.
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Old 11-16-2010, 08:00 PM   #11
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Should I till my yard before planting a flower garden?


Yeah, the plants I usually get are a little smaller. I get them that way because they cost a lot less and it takes a lot less time to plant. You can usually get the smaller ones for around $5 and the larger ones usually run around $20 here in my part of the woods. Within a year the smaller ones are about the size of the $20 ones. With the amount of plants I buy each year, that really adds up.

I know what you mean about tilling first. If I had the equipment that's what I would probably do to prepare new beds.

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