Tilling raised beds?

lexie1397April 13, 2014

DH put in four 4x8 raised beds and is convinced we need a tiller for them. I am less convinced. How do you recommend mixing in new compost each year?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Age and health?

No doubt a mini-tiller is easiest and fastest but if age and health allow then it can easily be mixed in with hand tools - fork, hoe, etc. in beds that small. It isn't like it has to be buried deep after all.

Alternative is just to top layer it on several times throughout the year as both a mulch and a side dressing and let the natural actions of planting, weeding, harvesting and the soil food web do the work for you.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 11:15AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Dave's right, of course, but I got a little tiller from a neighbor a couple of years ago and love it!
I add my compost and give it a little fluff up Spring and Fall. It also makes it look nice! LOL Nancy

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 11:53AM
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elisa_z5

Darwin discovered that the worms mix it in. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Darwin and worms on NPR

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 12:18PM
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tracydr(9b)

I have a small electric tiller and I love it for mixing in manure vans fluffing g!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 12:18PM
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lgteacher(SCal)

How deep are the raised beds? An advantage of raised beds is that you put good soil in them and don't have to till.

Here is a link that might be useful: raised bed garden

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 3:59PM
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japus

I've had 5 raised beds for over 10 years, I used a small electric tiller that did the job extremely well.
I don't need the tiller any more since I went to the SFG method.
All I do now is toss in a couple trowels of compost, mix it up and plant.
I can take my hand and go straight to the bottom of the bed now, Couldn't do that when I used soil.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 9:57PM
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ltilton

I use my Mantis in the raised beds. Wouldn't use anything larger.

Otherwise, I end up with a foot of mulch on top and the soil hidden underneath.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 10:10PM
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lexie1397

The beds are 18" high. We filled them with leaf and manure compost from a few different sources. I have a compost pile but havent made near enough in the last year to fill new beds! At the moment the different composts are in layers. The plan this year is to till and mix no matter what so the roots dont encounter drastically different nutrients as they grow.. I just dont know whether tilling is the right long term maintenance. I am all for the low-tech KISS ideas... worms are totally my speed.

What is the SFG method??

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 10:12PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

What is the SFG method??

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
It is short for Square Foot Gardening.

In this method everything is planted within very tight space. So when you plant everything, the whole bed is REALLY turned/tilled by your trowel,( as you dig hole, fluff up,)
I do till my RBs by shovel. I used to have a broad fork. That is good too. Then of course , I have a total of less than 200 sqr-ft

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:42AM
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mckenziek(9CA)

I have a pointy hoe. I use that and a rake. I have a tiller but it is way too big to put in a raised bed. I do use the tiller to loosen the soil when I put in a new bed.

I might get one of those Stihl tiller attachments for the Kombi motor power head. That would make tilling a raised bed easier.

--McKenzie

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:23AM
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cold_weather_is_evil(9)

>> The plan this year is to till and mix no matter what so the
>> roots don't encounter drastically different nutrients as they grow..

Digging a little bit with a hand trowel to make a planting hole does this.

>> I just don't know whether tilling is the right long term maintenance.

As one works for the long term one is effectively working to make tilling unnecessary. I shovel-dug each raised bed when each was first started, and never ever again.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:44AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Digging a little bit with a hand trowel to make a planting hole does this.

%%%%%%%%%%%%
I agree. If tilling is too much work for you, just use your hand shovel/trowel when you are planting seedlings. Get a wider/bigger one and dig a bigger hole. You can add/mix in ferts, compost, manure .. at the same time. You should be free from fertilizing for a while too. Most plants like/appreciate fluffed up soil when they are young. Once they grow good amount of roots, then they can manage to grow roots even in compacted soil, provided it is moist.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:30AM
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ltilton

With raised beds, the soil compacts over time and material washes out. So it has to be replaced and lstirred together, one way or another. A little tiller is one way to do that.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 10:04AM
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tommyr_gw

I use a garden pitchfork or a shovel but my bed is only 3 x 8' currently.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:14PM
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djkj(9b)

For an 18'' raised bed, you could use a fork and just work up the soil. We had 16'' raised beds and never had to use a tiller. Tillers are good but make sure you don't shred the worms!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:43PM
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