Last Updated on June 18, 2021 by woodcutter
To till or not to till is one of the most common dilemmas that gardeners and farmers face. Given the different notions, it can be hard to decide what is best for your farm or garden. In this article I’m going to examine the impact of tilling on soil and also look at the benefits and disadvantages of tilling the soil. But before l jump to look at the possible consequences of tilling, I’m going to explain what is tilling in depth. Read on to find out what is the best course of action to take when it comes to tilling.
What is Tilling?
Tilling is the process whereby one breaks and stirs up the soil with either a rototiller or hoe. Tilling is a millennium old tradition that gardeners and farmers do before planting and during the growing season. It is usually done to prepare the soil for planting, to mix in organic matter, or to remove weeds in the garden or farm.
Why Should We Not Till Soil?
Tilling is not highly recommended due to the long term effects it causes to the soil. Tilling the soil is good for the yield and does not have much impact on the soil in the first couple of months and years. However, over the long term, tilling can damage the soil.
Not only does tilling disrupt and fracture the soil structure but it ultimately contributes to soil erosion and runoff. The consequences of tilling are quite immense for instance tilling the soil reduces crop residue which is essential for the plants’ health. Due to tilling, soil particles tend to become dislodged and in addition to that, the displaced particles cause the soil pores to become clogged which in turn disrupts the water from infiltrating into the soil properly.
Why should you not till your garden?
There are a number of reasons why you should not till your garden. For starters, earthworms and other healthy worms which are naturally found in the soil get killed if you till your garden. The earthworms are essential for the soil, not only do they fertilize the soil through their digging and castings but they also naturally aerate it.
Another reason why you should not till your garden is that the moment you till your garden, the humus that is found in the soil tends to get burned up. Too much air from the tilling process will prevent your garden plants from having access to the much needed nutrients that can be found in humus.
Sometimes, you may find that tilling is not always beneficial. While tilling removes weeds that are growing, a new cycle of weed problems can emanate after tilling. When you till dormant weed seeds deep under the ground get stirred up, where they can germinate and produce new weeds, even if the old weeds on the surface are now dead.
Is tilling or no tilling better?
Not tilling and leaving the soil in your garden undisturbed has some additional benefits. For starters, it is not necessary to till your garden as it gets tilled naturally by soil dwelling organisms like earthworms.
When you don’t till, you don’t have to wait for weeds or old garden plants that would have been tilled to get decompose before you start your gardening. Furthermore, when land is untilled, there is more efficient water use by plants as the soil builds up a permanent system of various size pores and channels that enables water to move water up, down, and sideways.
Tilling is disruptive as it causes the soil and its surrounding components to lose their natural essence. Not only does tilling disrupts earthworms, fungi, which are healthy for the soil, but it also destroys the soil’s flora and fauna.
However, even though tilling is not good for the soil structure over the long term. If it is done appropriately and properly, tilling is better. Albeit the adverse long term effects of over tilling, the benefits of tilling tend to outweigh the disadvantages. Tilling makes gardening and farming easy as it takes care of many problems swiftly and with ease. Here are some of the reasons why tilling is better;
- It’s good for preparing seedbeds and leveling the soil.
- It helps to aerate the soil because suffocated soil can leave your garden looking dry as well as detering plant growth.
- Tilling is excellent for suppressing the growth of weeds that can disturb the plant growth.
- It also covers the crop which helps in potecting against soil erosion, and many more.
- It comes in handy when you want to incorporate manure, compost, or fertilizer into the roots of the plants
- It helps to activate pesticides.
What are benefits of tilling?
There are so many benefits that can be derived from tilling your garden or farm. So, before you start another planting season, here are some of the benefits of tilling for you to consider it as a routine seasonal project:
- Tilling comes in handy especially if the soil in your garden is severely compacted. It helps to break up any type of soil that needs to be broken into finer bits for planting seeds. So in short it relieves the soil and add adequate air required for plant growth.
- It also helps to loosen up the soil when the land is undisturbed. Planting flowers or vegetables in your garden will not be a hassle if you till the garden first.
- Tilling also removes unwanted roots, weeds, and other plants from the soil that would compete for nutrients with plants. Additional to that, it is a good defence from insects which can invade and and damage your plants. Remember that weeds are usually homes of many insects.
- Tilling also comes in handy when you want to convert a certain section of your lawn into a garden bed. Tilling not only turns the earth over but it goes all the way to mix the organic matter from the grass into the soil. You can easily get a ready to plant garden bed by just tilling.
- Tilling is a good gardening practice. If done right, tilling can help keep your soil healthy all season long. Whether you want to fill your garden with flowers or veggies, even fruits, your plants will be always flourishing because of the proper soil balance.
- Another benefit of tilling is that helps and makes it easy for you when you want to add compost, fertilizer, or organic matter into the soil. A tiller machine is a great tool for tilling as it stirs up the soil when you want to add all these nutritious components deep into the ground for a healthier, balanced soil.
Best Time To Till
After learning more about tilling, you need to know when to do it. Well, for most people spring season is considered to be the best start for tilling. However, before proceeding with the process, you need to ensure that the soil is dry and warm enough. Failure to that may damage the soil and disturb the plant growth.
In order to check if the soil is dry enough, you can pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it. If the soil stays together it means the soil is too wet to carry on with tilling process. But if the soil won’t stay together when poked, then the soil is dry enough. You can even check the warmness of the soil measuring it’s temperature. This way you’ll get the accurate results.
Best Tilling Practices
When tilling, you should not just do it randomly. You must do it following proper procedures in order to obtain amazing results. Here are some of the tilling practices to keep in mind:
- Avoid tilling your garden frequently to avoid damaging your garden’s soil structure. Do not till no more than is required. Thus, you should keep tilling to a minimum.
- Tillage is a sustainable method of soil management when done right. When you are tilling do not always till to the same depth as this creates a hardened layer called a plow pan.
- When you have tilled your garden, you have to add abundant organic materials regularly. This allows the soil to become enriched with ingredients it may lack and create the best growing environment for your plants.
In summation, tilling is not bad, frequent and unnecessary tillage is what is bad. The only problem with tilling is that gardeners tend to overdo it and that damages the soil structure. Considering all the negative effects of tilling, alternatively, you can opt not till your garden even though it is difficult to plant in an area that has not been tilled.
However, if you want to derive all the benefits that come from tilling, you can still till your garden. But to protect your garden soil you have to till appropriately and follow the proper procedures. Above all, make sure to use right tilling tools suitable for the type of soil you have so that get greater results.