No Tiller Needed: Advice for New Gardeners

11 Apr

by Renea Winchester

Only a few tools are needed in order to have a lush garden: A shovel,  rake , hoe, and determination. So for those who do not own a tiller, or are inexperienced in how to prepare your own “little strip of ground,” let’s begin.

Here is a photo of my garden space. You’ll see it is overgrown with chickweed and various other types of satan-spawned weeds.

Before: Weed Covered

Step one:  Manually remove as many weeds as possible by pulling them. Try to get the roots. The leaves can remain and be worked into the soil.
After removing as many weeds as possible the next step is to rake the area clean with a heavy metal rake.
As you can see in the second photo while the rake does not get the area completely clean,  it does go a long
way in removing weeds.
Our next step will be to scatter  wood-
ashes, used tea leaves and coffee grounds.
   Wood ashes have been used for years in
    gardens all over the country. However, do   
    not apply ashes in an area where you
   are going to plant acid loving plants (such as
   tomatoes, or blueberries); or in an area where  you are planting potatoes.
Wood ashes can, however, be used to repel insects. This link from the Oregon Extension Service is full of helpful tips.
Double dig the soil  by plunging a shovel deep  into the soil. Lift the shovel, turn it over and dump the soil onto the ground. Repeat these steps until all organic matter is incorporated. If you are not working any matter into the soil, keep turning the soil until the ground is broken and ready to rake.
After the soil has been turned, rake the earth. Remove any rocks, roots,
and pesky weeds that are reluctant to leave. The soil is now ready to plant.

After: New Ground Ready for Planting

Remember to subscribe to my blog, and visit the YouTube chanel I’ve created titled blogthefarm where videos of Farmer Billy can be viewed. Those who subscribe to my blog, and post comments on my blog will be entered to win free seeds !  Thank you for your time and remember to keep those hands dirty !
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. Her book, In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes has been nominated for a SIBA award and GAYA award.

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8 responses to “No Tiller Needed: Advice for New Gardeners

  1. Patty Hicks

    April 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    It’s always good to see examples of simple tools being used to create a garden. It keeps it a lot more accessible to those who cannot afford or don’t have one and tools are pretty easily found for a couple dollars at garage and estate sales. Besides I personally believe sweat equity makes the garden a more satisfying experience. Another point…tillers hop over boulders (rock 10″ and bigger) and rarely bring them to the surface so I hand dug my front yard garden (27’X 27′)for that very reason. We live where rocks are abundant and I wanted to get the big rocks and the only way to do them was to hand dig them out.

  2. Rose Marie Morton

    April 11, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Renea, I enjoyed that video very much. I’m farther south and have already planted my tomatoes right in the flower bed which has been dug and mulched for years. I have a new patch on the side that’s been created by a tree having to come down, now there’s more room for next year. I’ll think twice about tilling on my own, though, looks like that tiller is working Billy pretty hard. I’ll wait for my son to drop by one day.

  3. Rose Marie Morton

    April 12, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I forgot to say: very interesting blog, and I learned something new, that the wood ashes help repel insects. Now trying to figure out a way to burn wood in the city when I don’t have a fireplace …

  4. Nebraska Dave

    April 12, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Renea, I’ve started the garden process for this year. I have five raised garden beds which are now all ready for planting. It’s so good to be outside working in the soil again. Although I don’t really double dig, my beds give me 8 inches of composted soil above the clay ground level which seems to do well for raising vegetables.

    Have a great spring gardeniing day.

  5. Lori Gearheart

    April 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    We’ve started a Garden Co-op this Spring with two other families. Very exciting reading about your simple, no-till advice! These other two families are so intimidated by the simple idea of gardening and I’m so excited to show them how easy it really is!

  6. Julia

    April 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I’ve been following your blog (and enjoying it!) ever since I listened to your interview on the Growing Your Grub podcast!

    You’ve inspired me to strike up more of a conversation with the farmer who I like to buy produce from. He’s a crack-up because when you pull up to his veg stand, he hops into his old red pickup truck and drives over from wherever he is in his field.

  7. Wanda in NoAla

    April 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Hub and I live in the city with a small lot. We raise an amazing amount of veggies in the spot that gets enough sunshine. My deck is filled with pots of herbs and cherry tomatoes. I would love a place in the country where I could plant more and have chickens, but for right now, I can still have tomato sandwiches that are still warm from the sun. I’m craving one right now!

  8. Diana

    April 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    With enough determination, you don’t need a shovel, rake or hoe, either! 😉 But there is an easy way to prepare a garden area with no tools. You just need to plan ahead a bit. Pick an area you wish to convert to garden and put down several inches of whatever organic material you have – leaves, grass clippings, manure, etc. Over that, put a layer of cardboard or several layers of newspaper, and cover that with more organic material. Then wait. Mother nature will do the rest. The weeds or grass in the area will be smothered and die, and the organic material will decompose into composty goodness that the earthworms will love. The earthworms will “till” the soil, and after a few months (longer if it’s dry and/or you have super-hard clay), you’ll be able to dig into the soil with your hand. It works! No shovel required.


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