Using frost to till your garden?

steve22802(7a VA)March 2, 2011

I've sometimes noticed in the early spring that some of my soil will be loose and friable even without tilling and it appears to be related to the winter freeze and thaw cycle. I'm just wondering if anyone has given any thought as to whether this annual cycle could be used to loosen the soil for planting? There seem to be various factors that influence how much the frost cycle heaves the soil. Moisture content, frost depth and organic content all seem to play a roll. It also seems to be important that it is an area that is never walked (or driven) over all winter otherwise it gets compacted despite the frost cycles. Any thoughts on this idea?

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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Over here using frost to break up the soil is standard practice, even though we get fewer freezes than many places in the US. The traditional method is to dig the ground roughly in the autumn/winter during dry spells and leave it in large clods. You then hope that there will be a few frosts. The idea is that come spring it then just needs raking down to a tilth for sowing and planting. It might prove a more problematical method in places where the ground really freezes and the garden is pretty much out of bounds through the winter.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 11:59AM
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Sounds like a plan for anyone in zone 2-7.
flora uk, have every been on KGI.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 8:19PM
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steve22802(7a VA)

Thanks for the comment Flora. Seems like the ground needs to be water saturated before the hard frost occurs so that the frost can expand the moisture in the soil and burst the clods.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 7:45PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

"Seems like the ground needs to be water saturated before the hard frost occurs..." ha, ha - that's no problem here!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 11:41AM
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Frost does wonders for compaction issues up here. And by golly we get some impressive frost!! It's a balmy -25C this morning, in March for crying out loud!


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 10:37AM
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gemini_jim(7 MD)

I did some of this without really planning on it. In November I dug up a big circular bed for a 3 sisters (corn, beans, & squash) garden to be planted this spring. I haven't gotten a chance to go over it again, but a lot of the big clods have broken up. Don't know how much is from the frost and how much from the rain!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 11:21AM
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