Proper use of a tiller

wankel(6)May 30, 2007

I have just spent a couple of days tilling a new garden in the back of my yard. Had to cut through grass, grass roots, and the tiller has been doing a good job of digging up rocks. I plan to put in tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.

I have been trying to get about 8" deep with the tiller and break up the soil as fine as I can. I've been going back and forth and zig-zagging at diagonals across the garden bed.

Then a friend stopped by and told me that I don't want to overtill the soil and get it TOO fine.

Overtill? I don't want the soil to be too fine??

After my friend left, it hit me that I don't have a clue about how to till... I just do it. The instruction manual that came with my tiller (a front-tine Craftsman bought about 15 years ago, has lots of advice on safety and basic operative procedures, but none on tilling from a gardener's perspective.

Oddly, a Google search doesn't turn up much either. Lots of stuff on front tines vs. rear tines, etc. but hardly anything on technique.

Any tips on tilling would be most appreciated...


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Until you mentioned it, I too have never heard or read
anything on technique or proper tilling procedures.
I suppose it is one of those 'just get on and ride',
activities. I have a small city lot garden and use
a Mantis tiller and , like you, go back and forth and
zig-zag. I go over it quickly, just to bread up the
surface and then spread the fertilizer, then go over it
more thouroughly, letting the machine get as deep as
it can by pulling it back after it has gone forward
a bit. When I am done the soil is like powder, but
the plants love it. It seems to compact more than a
more coarse soil and I suppose I should till in some
more organic material from time to time. In the fall,
after cleaning out the garden, I till it again and
then plant my garlic for the next year. I guess
'maybe' that the finer soil will not let as much
oxygen down to the roots after it compacts on the surface,
???? Also water absorbtion is not as good because
a heavy rain will run right over the crust of the
soil if there is any grade whatsoever. I suppose this
discussion should be on one of the garden forums, but.... Just my thoughts.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 9:54AM
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>> I suppose this discussion should be on one of the garden forums

You know, I thought about that but there are a bunch of garden forums and I hate to cross post.

I guess I'll see what kind of response I get here.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 12:29PM
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Do a forum search for the Troybuilt manuals for the Horse tillers. They have an entire section on how to till.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 1:05PM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

i till pretty much the same way. the biggest drawback to over tilling is that you pull a LOT of weed seeds up to the point they germinate. many are buried too deep to do anything, but the tiller pulls them up into optimum level and next thing you know you have weeds everywhere.

i now only till a few weeks before i plant, then go back in a few days and round up te whole area to kill off the weeds.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 2:03PM
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maineman(z5a ME)


There are a few tips on tilling at this link.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 12:29AM
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