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The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › To till or not to till?

To till or not to till?

A former member
Post #: 1
Hello All,

My name is Jen White and I am brand new to many forms of gardening. My partner and I just bought a 1/2 acre of land and would love to start a garden this year. The question we have been debating is whether to till the land or grow in raised beds. I am very new and can use all of the advice I can get on how to start our first garden. Thank you all and I am looking forward to attending a Permaculture meeting!

Jen
zengeos
zengeos
Gorham, ME
Post #: 164
Hi Jen, I am trying a variety of methods this Spring.

I have a sheet mulched bed that I will plant into in a few weeks...4x20 feet or so. I also have an existing 25x50 tilled garden whch I am working into a wide bed model...4' wide about, running the entire length, with 18"-2' paths. This fall I plan to simply sheet mulch over the raised beds and NOT til the garden next year.

I also created a raspberry bed this last week, which I lightly tilled to remove most of the grass clods and then built up the soil into mounding raised beds.

Supposedly, Lasagna beds can be planted into immediately, though I prefer the simpler sheet mulch beds. I hope to build another sheet mulch bed or two in the next few weeks, but the problem becomes how do I plant into these 4-6" thick beds of mostly compost?


Sorry..not mulch help...

Mark-
David H.
PostCarbonDesign
Oxford, ME
Post #: 300
No till...but that's just me!
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 157
What you need to do depends on what you have to start with IMO. If it has been previously a lawn or farm field then no till should work fine. If you have places with tree or berry bush roots and large rocks or stumps you may need to do something else. Berry bushes have a way of getting in to practically anything.

I do different things depending on the situation.
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 374
Both Davids are right. Generally avoid tilling whenever possible. There are a few exceptions i.e. when tilling can't possibly make anything worse than it already is and it's truly the most efficient way to break up something like hardpan... more remedial situations. But even then, some would advocate no-till first if possible.

You're situation sounds like you could get away without tilling.

When *establishing* a food-bearing ecosystem (aka permaculture garden) it's not the end of the world if you have to use a bit of tilling, bringing in organic matter from outside, a bit of land moving, etc. But the objective is to only rely on these types of inputs in the first few years - at most - until you get your "system" to a more self-regulating level in which you become more of a tinkerer than a broadscale intervenor.
A former member
Post #: 2
Wow! Thank you all for your replies. It makes me a tad anxious...so, I need to go back to an even more elementary question...what is wrong with tilling? I am not asking in a defensive way, but I am completely new to this.

As a beginner, what books are good to start out with? I just need a beginner base to read-up on things. Again, very overwhelmed! So, overwhelmed I barely know what questions I need to be asking.

Jen
David H.
PostCarbonDesign
Oxford, ME
Post #: 302
where to start...
1. tillers run on fossil fuels...f.f.'s are the root of all convenience and evil.
2. the disruption of the ecology of the soil in the 1st 6" of the soil is a bad idea
3. Nature doesn't till
4. Work with nature...not against it!

My thought are to sheet mulch and wait, in that time (this season ) put in several raised beds that you could grow in right away, any trees and shrubs you are keeping...sheetmulch up to around them.

If you make a plan/design you can integrate the sheetmulched areas and raised beds to create a cohesive garden design.
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 379
Jen, get your hands on a copy of Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway. It is the most accessible for getting started with no-till permaculture gardens.
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