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One time only till

 
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Location: Portugal
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I am looking for information on one time tilling, maybe I overlooked something on the forums here?

How deep (or, rather, how shallow?)

What is the best time of year to do a one time only tilling?

Climate: Maritime, it never freezes in the winter, and is seldom above 30°C in the summer, which is dry, but we get lots of dew and sometimes fog from the ocean.

Thank you!
 
pollinator
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Look through DR. Redhawks soil series.  I think he recommends a putting down your compost and then go over once with a sub-soiler (large single spike) to do a minimal impact to the sub-soil.  This gets the compost down into the soil to increase the biological activity.  Of course he says it better.
 
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Pssst! Here is where to start.

List of Dr. Redhawk's Epic Soil Sereis.
 
gardener
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Here is what I feel would work well. I usually practice no till but sometimes a one time tilling can do wonders for injecting organic matter further into the soil. It can work really well with clay espeically.

Till the soil in spring, to get the grass, weeds, whatever, worked in. Then add your organic matter and till that in. Bring as much organic matter to bear on the spot as possible, and then proceed to mulch thickly. From then on proceed as if you were doing pure no till. By getting the organic matter further in the soil, you will really help bring air and leachate (compost tea) to the subsoil more quickly than just mulching on top. As for depth, I'd go as deep as you can that first time, though shallow is fine if that's all you have available.
 
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If you have too much land you will not be able to stop tilling everything in the first year I recommend ally cropping to start. Add more perennial rows each year. The older perennials will need less care after a few years freeing your time to tend to the new ones. Let's face it on a large scale no till only works with herbicide. I practice shallow tilling on my farm with ally crops. The un-tilled tree rows are managed with weed eater and weeding with straight edge shovel. Most orchards use herbicide in the un-tilled area near the trees.
  Flooding for extended periods is an ancient form of herbicide. This works in low areas or if you have an impermeable clay or bedrock if you dig trenches and use the soil to raise the growing bed.
 
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I would want to do it sooner than later. In Autumn if the plan is a Spring planting. I would immediately plant it with a cover crop. Let the roots get down to the transition spot of tilled/compacted soil.
 
Eleanor Froelich
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Thanks to all of you for the replies!

Thanks Dennis and Joylynn. I have enormous respect for Dr Redhawk, his soil series is incredibly helpful and inspiring. His mention of one time only till is how I came up with the idea. Up to now I have not found specific instructions in his posts on one time only till, but I will read through the series again, I’m sure to learn a lot more.

For clarification: the land is now laying fallow, it was partially tilled in December 2016, before we bought it. Unfortunately, very deep ruts were left in moist areas. Some patches were overgrazed by sheep, but are improving. Wild boars have plowed through large stretches of our land and left deep holes. I would like to be able to walk over my land without frequently falling into holes or ruts. We are still in the observation stage, at the moment only planting native trees, savannah style.

Thank you James. I wait until the vegetation is high, and the soil is dried out enough that it will not be seriously compacted by the tractor? The vegetation (thistles, a variety of grains, legumes, clover...) will have to be my mulch, nothing else is available.

Thank you Jeff. As we are not yet farming, I will save your suggestions for later.

Thank you Wayne. Autumn would fit best into our schedule. Probably safer than spring, as I don’t want to risk tilling and then waiting six months for the next rain.

For Wayne and James: if I till in the Autumn, I would be tilling dried vegetation into the soil. Is this less desirable than the fresh vegetation that I would till into the soil in the spring?
 
James Landreth
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You're welcome!

The soil can still be a bit moist, it doesn't have to be too dried out. I forget what the rule of thumb is. But it shouldn't be too wet.

Tilling in fall would be fine, so long as you mulch to protect from the winter rains. Whatever you use for mulch is fine so long as there's enough of it
 
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hau  Eleanor, your land sounds wonderful.  

Do you have a tractor with a rake attachment? I've found that one of those attachments does great for bringing back level to hog rooted areas without doing any damage.

Now for some specifics on using the one time till method.
Since your land is fallow, you already have some great roots in the soil and I imagine there is a fair amount of stems above ground, if not bags of bird seed are usually pretty cheap to buy and there will be a modicum of diversity in plant seeds.
Just spread them and let them grow for about a month after sprouting.

Tools for the tilling; a subsoiler is really the best but it usually takes having a tractor of at least 30 hp. to be able to get down more than a foot in a single pass.
You can of course do repeating passes in the same grove to get down deeper.
The ideal for using this implement is around two feet deep, if you can get to three feet deep you are golden.
You can use the tines on a box blade set as deep as possible too, it just isn't as efficient.

When we are tilling that single time we want to have all the organic materials already on top of the soil so they will be able to get down into the soil when we make that pass (or passes).
With a subsoiler we are depending on gravity to get those organic materials in the crevasses we create but you can also use water to help move the organic matter down where you want it.
I have also used chisel plows to do this step.
Once you have done the tillage you need to come back with a seeder and thickly seed the tilled area then water it for best germination of your seeds.
This gives your soil new cover, in the case of pasture land, it creates a thick cover of pasture plants (I use a mix of seeds for pasture ah la Gabe Brown), consisting of rape, alfalfa, several grass varieties, hairy vetch, field peas, millet, sorghum, barley, crimson, yellow and white clovers.

Do wait till the tractor can be driven on the soil without sinking in, that is usually the best for not having much compaction result from your efforts.

If you need more help with this, do pm me with your problem and I'll do my best to give you some ideas and direction.

Redhawk
 
wayne fajkus
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Its funny how more context can change a strategy. When i hear of tilling, i automatically think of an annual garden setting, not acreage.

Tilling brings lots of undesirable weeds.  I prefer to scatter seeds on wet ground. if there is concern of washing away or moisture, add a layer of hay/straw as a mulch. I havent tried it, but i think about seeding an area and mowing it with a mower with a block off plate on the chute. Seems like it would mulch it as long as seed was not damaged.
 
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