Was wondering if anyone has some ideas on turning over compacted clay and turf, essentially ploughing. I found 2 solutions on the Internet.
1) Was to use something called a "loy spade" used by Irish potato farmers, however I don't see any retailers that sell them.
2) Is to use a long handle pointed spade, but pivot it on a wire-frame fulcrum. Like this.
Any other ideas? I've considered using a rototiller or a plough. But have tried using a trenching hoe/azada 6.5inch though the ground is too compact to break through the sod and lift easily, a mattock works better, but the handle is a little short for my liking, if it had no pick, but added weight on the adze that would probably be more ideal.
Although something like the Back to Eden method or HugelKulture appeals to me, wood is pretty scarce in the UK for the area I am aiming at. Straw though is probably quite prevalent. Had some success growing tansy phacelia which puts out thousands of seed, I'm not sure if Daikon/Chinese Raddish puts out seed as a given. Aiming for putting out as much organic matter as possible in as short or long growth cycles as optimum to improve the soil, to get it easier to work without machinery.
We chose not to rototill our garden in the first year but I would definitely have done it knowing what I know now. Unless your soil is good then rototilling and adding as much organic material as possible (also lime, rockdust, fairy dust, kelp etc) then sowing a covercrop mix, then following that with cardboard, compost, mulch seems to be a great way regenerate and kickstart a garden scale soil.
I know that other people have different ideas, and I'm far from an expert, but the initial kick that you seem to get from the powertool and fertility import seems to give you better soil structure and health much faster than trying to do it by hand for those of us that are not experts. If you want to do it by hand then good luck to you, it's certainly possible. My experience has been that knowing so little about gardening when I started made it hard for me to know if it was my soil that was poor, my garden care that was lacking, my young trees that were just not that good, etc etc.
So getting at least the soil up to acceptable asap would have taken care of one of those problems.
Also I would have got chickens on the ground as soon as possible, and in my climate ducks. The slug pressure in this climate (similar to the UK) can be enormous.
Those two videos are wonderful though, I love old solutions. There is also a solution I have seen but cannot find that uses a second person standing in front of the digger, pulling on a rope tied to the spade, just above the blade, to help with lifting the soil.
While looking for it though, i did find this weirdly shaped thing which looks like it makes the work of digging much, much easier. Probably not as good for compacted clay and turf, although you never know.
If it's not too big a space (such as your back garden), I would pile on any organic material you can get your hands on; ask your neighbours if you can have the contents of their garden waste bins, collect cardboard recycling from the back of shops, snatch bags of raked leaves on the side of public spaces, go rake up grass cut at the park, whatever it takes (I have done all of this!).
I personally have a flock of 16 chickens and I use the contents of their coop (manure and straw) over winter and it works wonders. I don't dig it in; I just put as much as I can on, and this is the best time of year to do it, as the worms and soil life will dig it in for you and have it ready for planting in spring. Where there are persistent weeds I'll put down cardboard first, then the bedding.
If you have a much bigger space to work, I agree that hiring a machine to till as a one time event should be fine. Till and broadcast winter grazing rye, or whatever green manure you're using, then start your no-till regime from there.
Thank you for the replies. The land is 3 acres, the slug pressure is a bit of a pain "coming outta the walls" kind of bad. Though they don't seem to eat tansy phacelia or beetroot, they go crazy for lupins. Chickens seem like a good potential option, if I can get enough greens growing, that I could scythe for them to eat, that might work out well.
I considered the broadfork option as well. Problem is the ground is so much clay I think it would just get compacted down again in time. I came across an Irish shovel, might be a better option then using a regular spade, at least for breaking the surface, maybe could mound up some raised beds with the sod. I know a retired farmer tried ploughing the field once and his tractor couldn't manage it, so even though I've seen a plough advertised for a small ride of tractor (which I have access to) I'm reluctant to try, though maybe it might be fine at a lower depth. For this reason I'm more reluctant to try a rototiller. Another option might be to get a farmer to plough the land with a full sized tractor then seed it with something that would breakup the soil or at less provide some useful organic matter, cost efficiency wise I guess that would be an option.
In terms of chopping into hard ground does anybody know where I could get a "mattock" but with a handle longer then 36" ideally 48" or longer no pick/axe or just a longer handle that would fit a mattock head ( I could saw off the pick end)? It seems that all of the hoe heads on the Internet just don't have the thickness of steel/punching power that I would require, seems a bit crazy how often a mattock is cheaper than a grub/azada hoe head.
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