All Things Gardening forum: Warning about tilling wet soil

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Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
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fiwit
Mar 18, 2012 5:52 AM CST
http://blogs.courier-journal.com/gardening/2012/03/13/your-a...
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Mar 22, 2012 5:10 PM CST
If you can prop up a tarp or plastic film so that water runs off for a week or more, you can even beat constant rain. And the soil might even warm up faster under plastic.

If there is runoff from uphill of your bed, that's a harder problem, unless you enjoy digging angled ditches.

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Name: Critter (Jill)
MD (Zone 6b)
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critterologist
Apr 6, 2012 10:10 PM CST
Most years, I'm out there poking anxiously at my veggie bed in late April, trying to find the perfect day for "Big Ben" to come out with his tractor-tiller. Too dry, and even his big tiller won't be as effective as I'd like. Too wet, and the clay soil compacts and forms big lumpy bricks. It's "just right" when I can pick up a handful and compress it into a ball that crumbles easily in my hand.

This year, I'm hoping to skip the tilling, maybe start sheet composting instead... or go halfway and till a couple of planting rows with my little Mantis tiller but not try to turn over all the soil in the bed. I've been unable to use my tiller for a couple of years, so just getting it out will be an experiment. It's tempting to call Big Ben and have a silken expanse of warm soil for planting... but I know I can get a few yards of compost with the money I'd save by skipping "the big till" this year... so I'll try to tough it out!

I didn't exactly get out there yet, though... we all got the crud this past week, so I don't think I did anything more productive outside than picking up sticks and admiring the flowers... so I'm still staring at this bag of snap peas on my counter. I had plans for them! I was going to mini-till a row right down the center of the garden, install an upright lineup of big branches (recent tree prunings) to serve as a pea fence, then hoe up a little double row and plant my peas. I figure I should be able to plant young peppers right up against the peas... by the time the pepper plants start to take off, the peas will be pretty much done. Or I could put cucumbers along that same row, and they could take their turn climbing the "pea fence."

I'm learning to dance in the rain. Thank you, Sally & Chris.

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