Before you start digging up your garden to till it for spring, put down the shovel and consider this: What if someone came into your home with a rake and caused a ruckus? Wouldn’t be conducive to healthy behavior afterwards, right?
Aggressive tilling may actually cause more harm than good for the worms and eco-system of your garden—and there’s a gentler way to prep for potatoes and tomatoes.
Here are a few reasons you should consider ditching the till method:
Tilling Disturbs the Worms
Tilling the soil causes a violent earthquake for your worm tenants that are diligently maintaining the soil. I’m talking about the kind of earthquake that ends with everything from the shelves on the floor and the furniture tipped on its side.
Tilling Invites New Weeds
While tilling is meant to remove weeds, it also creates opportunity for old weed seeds that are buried in the bottom of the soil to take new life. When they are exposed to the sun they germinate and a new generation is born.
Tilling Makes for a Thirsty Garden
Tilling can actually reduce water retention, which is incredibly important to your garden’s health. For the same reason it disrupts the worms in the soil, it puts a fork in the natural aeration and drainage.
Now, here’s how to go forth without tilling your garden:
1. One-time prep for a no-till garden: If you’re new to the no-till trend, or this is your first garden, all soil needs to be prepped for plotting. Dig at least one foot deep to remove any rocks, weed roots, or obstructions. This process should only be done once, the following years you will simply add to the existing soil.
2. Add new soil: Just drop it right on top.
3. Mix in some compost: Make a new soil + compost cocktail by gently stirring your new ingredients with a rake.
4. Top it off with mulch: You can use dry leaves, straw or grass clippings. This last step keeps the soil moist and soft and helps to kill weeds. Try grass this year, it adds nitrogen which will help your future plants grow.
5. Remove the mulch to plant: When you are ready to plant seeds, remove the mulch in areas where your plants will grow. Be sure to pull the mulch back from vines, but it’s not necessary to remove it entirely throughout the season.
Pro Tip: Add bricks or little stepping-stones to your garden bed. Not only will it add flare, it’s a good way to create a forever pathway around your precious veggies so you won’t step on the roots!