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Tilling beds only?

 
Posts: 54
Location: Southern Michigan
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Hello, I've got annuals to go into the ground but no cleared ground to put them in! Due to time and money constraints my current plan is to till up and amend (with compost) the exact beds that I'll be using and just mow the pathways for this year (they are 4+ feet wide right now). It's far from ideal but I just cant afford to buy enough hay to cover the whole garden and my access to other mulches is limited by my lack of truck or trailer. I'll be covering the planted beds with deep mulch. Am I missing a key element here? Is there a good reason not to try this? Thanks
 
pollinator
Posts: 459
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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As you probably know, there are different opinions about tilling. But it seems like tilling once is not really a problem. The problem lies with repeated tilling over the course of years, which destroys soil structure, promotes erosion and nutrient loss, etc. etc. So if you're turning lawn into planting bed and want to till it just once, you aren't likely to cause the sort of problems connected with tilling.

In my garden I planted in small holes dug in the sod, then did a thick layer of mulch to create the big bed. That bed has never been tilled. The sod pretty much disappeared, though grass and creeping charlie are always growing in from the sides. Our other beds were turned over by hand, then mulched etc. The soil seems better in the no-till bed, but how much is due to the larger quantities of mulch used and how much to the not tilling is uncertain.
 
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I agree with Chip.

Most often, 'virgin ground' needs some sort of preparation.
Just throwing seeds/plants on it will not create a garden spot.

An initial tilling will displace the sod, and fluff up the soil beneath it.
It will help create a healthy environment for the soil-food-web to begin growing.
A good first step in preparing the spot for gardening.

Once a good garden bed has been established, there should be no further need for tilling.
Additional tilling will damage the good work you have accomplished by breaking virgin ground.


 
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