Tilling The Earth

By into the rustic - 12:56 PM

Tilling the soil serves many purposes. It will loosen the soil up allowing air and water to be able to reach the roots of what you choose to sow. It also breaks up the old root systems of weeds and sod that would if left in the soil, choke out your seeds and steal the nutrients necessary for them to germinate and flourish.

Methods of Tilling

Shovel It

The most basic and oldest method of turning the soil is with a spade and a rake. The spade is used to turn over the clods of soil and the rake is used to break them up and smoothen them out.

Double Digging

This is an effective method for using the spade to turn over your garden beds soil, and one that I personally use for my gardens. This is a long and often backbreaking job but if you do it slowly spread out over a week it is less tiresome and well worth the work in the end.

First, you start by digging your first trench along the length of your garden. This is dug to the depth of the spade itself. The soil that is dug up from this first trench is piled on the side of your garden and should not be touched for the time being. 

When you complete this first digging, dig again in this same first trench to a depth of the spade but this time only loosen the soil up and add some organic material to it such as manure or compost. Then start digging the next trench adjacent to it to the one you just did, a spade depth again in depth. 

This top layer dug up from this trench, is then used to finish filling in the first trench and to this soil should be added also organic material. Then finish digging another depth of the spade in this second trench and again only loosen the soil up while also adding in organic material. 

 Repeat this as many times as needed to cover the entirety of your garden bed. When you get to the last trench, take the pile of topsoil that you had set aside from the beginning, add organic material to it evenly, and top off your last row with this.

The Plow

Next is of course the plow, which can be used with animal labor or be completely mechanized. The best method for plowing your garden is to start in the middle of the garden bed and work your way outwards in a clockwise direction. 

This will turn the soil always over on the right side of where you are tilling and uniformly mix the soil. Used in combination with the plow is the Harrow. The harrow is used in the same way the rake was, to break up the clods and smoothen out the soil. 

If you are only plowing soil that the sod has been already broken up and removed, then a harrow is not needed. A small tractor can do the trick with only 12-16 horsepower. But, if you are breaking up sod then you will need a stronger and larger tractor of at least 1 ton in weight with about 40 horsepower strength.

When you till the land, do not plow any deeper than 12” down so as not to disturb the topsoil and the drainage qualities of the subsoil beneath.

Always make sure that you till when the soil is nice and dry. If your soil is to clayey and you till the soil, it will create
these big lumps in your fields will be very difficult to break up later and will hinder good root growth of your crops.

If you are tilling over “virgin” soil then you want to do this in the Fall allowing during the winter months for the weeds, grass, and other organic material to decompose.

Also if you want to routinely cultivate your soil, most farmers do this in the Fall by tilling under the crops and vegetation left over from their harvest so that during the winter it can decompose and improve the soil for the next growing season.

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