Getting a neglected garden bed back on track with a rotary tiller

Pulling out all rhizome grasses before tilling and sowing in this garden bed

Garden beds after watering with sticks marking out the spots where was sowed and dents from stepping onto the garden bed for sowing

I havened been taking good care of this large garden bed. A big corner is full of weeds and around the edges there is couch grass and other bigger rhizome grasses. The soil has been dense and it was for a big part underneath the canopy of a willow patch keeping the rain away. This willow patch has been cut down because of the willow borer. I have been digging up the couch grass in the garden bed and pulling this and the bigger rhizome grass out along the edges as much as I could get it out.

Weedy garden bed with a pile of horse manure in the back
Couch grass at the edge of a garden bed

Recently we where able to buy a rotary tiller for our tractor and we tilled this garden bed. The first time my husband hung the retaining board high. This was not a success, so he tilled the garden bed a second time and let the retaining board just hang down. This way it could follow the outline of the surface of the soil as it wanted. This gave a much better result. The width of the garden bed made three passes necessary, which gave a nice and evenly division with small walkways between the garden beds.

I found some couch grass which went trough the tiller and picked that out of the garden beds.

Now that the willows are cut down and we tilled this garden bed, we have very beautiful prepared garden beds. The soil is black and loose and ready to be sown in.

Garden beds after tilling

Since I did grow some food here the last few years, I am assuming there is not a lot of nutrition left in the soil anymore. We did not ad any manure before tilling, since I did not have any ripe manure to ad at the moment. Keeping that in mind I mainly sowed carrots and onions, with some flowers for diversity. Carrots and onions do not like too much nutrition in the ground and this loose soil should be ideal for carrots. I also sowed a block with peas, which should be able to take care of themselves with nitrogen since they have nodule bacteria that fix nitrogen from the air in the soil. I left a part of the garden bed free, since I want to plant corn there. I have sowed 4 different types of corn in the greenhouse and to prevent cross pollination I am going to divide the different types on different spots in the different gardens I have. Corn needs a lot of nutrition, but, as soon as our manure spreader is registered, we will get a trailer full of separated liquid cow manure. From this I will work some into the soil before planting the corn.

After tilling, the soil was nice and moist, but by the time I came to sowing we already where heaving a drought and the harsh dry wind has dried out the soil. I am not sure if you can see it in the picture, but these are 2 trenches to sow carrots in, which are dust dry. We are going to have to water a lot, since there is no rain coming soon.

2 dust dry trenches for sowing

Since the rotary tiller is 180cm wide the beds it made are also about 180cm wide. That is too wide for me to reach from the side, so I needed to make one step in the middle of the bed, which left a dent in the soil. I look’s kind of funny, but it also brings an advantage when it comes to watering. I have noticed that partially the soil does not take on water very well and by filling the footprints the water has time to soak into the soil without flowing away.

Garden beds after sowing with sticks marking out the spots where was sowed and dents from stepping onto the garden bed for sowing

Originally I was planning on covering the soil with straw after I was done sowing. After seeing these beautiful black evenly garden beds I do not really want to mulch it and hide this sight. I do not know if this is a good idea, but for now I will leave these garden beds as they are and just water them every day. At the moment the exposed black soil has a great advantage. The sun heats up the black soil. This would not be possible if I would mulch it with straw, which has a light colour. The seed needs warmth to sprout and the nights still tent to get cold. I will probably mulch these garden beds after the seeds have sprouted, before the heat and drought of summer comes. Then the mulch will keep the soil cooler and protect the soil from drying out to much.

While sowing I found this beautiful spider with its eggs. It is a Tarantula wolf spider (Lycosa tarantula) which lives on the ground.

Tarantula wolf spider (Lycosa tarantula) with its eggs

Can I still say I am gardening permaculture style while using a rotary tiller?

At least this is not gardening “no-dig” style anymore. We have a very clayy soil in this area and gardening no-dig style does not function very well, but maybe I am being to impatient with nature???…

Author: beautifulchaosorg

Hi, I am Carolien and I am a Dutch woman trying to build a self sufficient homestead on concrete and rubble. Follow my husband and me on YouTube:

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