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Do You rototill in your mulch?

Posted by Jon_dear 4/5 (My Page) on
Mon, Nov 7, 11 at 15:37

was thinking of mulching next year with fall leaves and very old bark; like 45 years old. I add as much organic matter to my garden every year as I can get my hands on. I added maybe a 1/2 a pickup full of pine mulch to a small patch I added last year. to be on the safe side I added a little blood meal. seemed to mellow out that spot, (softened that clay). Opinions?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

If you till mulch in it is no longer mulch but a soil amendment. Mulches have many advantages starting with 1) "weed" suppression, 2) Moisture retention, 3) soil temperature control, and 4) adding organic matter over time.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 8, 11 at 13:22

Yes, at the end of the season, I till the mulch in with compost & shredded leaves.
I replant most beds with winter crops, so few if any cover crops.
Cover crops or green manure(not what we call GREEN manure on the farm :-)are good way to keep thing moving all winter, if you do not plant a winter garden.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

Many people do till their mulches in doing unnecessary work and expending unnecessary energy. if your soil is covered with a mulch there would not be any reason to grow a Cover or Green manure crop which have one purpose, among others, of holding your soil in place so it does not erode as soils in the southwest have been doing this fall.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

In my opinion it can be helpful to till in amendments in the early fall. These can begin the more fully breaking down process. Mulches and amendments added in late fall around here are better left with little or no tilling in.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

Jon

Since you mentioned you have clay, working in organic matter is a good idea. Working in sand or silt will also help. But since you live in zone 4, clean cultrue to control insects and disease is not as important. Once you get your soil in good shape, you could probably afford to get a little creative and skip tilling from time to time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

GreeneGarden; Thanks for the link. That is one of the most informative articles I have read in a long time. It makes no difference wither you are a pure organic gardener or not. There is a lot of need to know information for gardener's and farmers/ranchers alike.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

Keep in mind that if you do till your garden soil in the fall then that soil is now left exposed to the ravages of the winter winds and rains nad you can loose some of your "topsoil" through erosion. Fall tilling should be followed with planting a cover/green manure crop to help hold your soil in place.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I have noticed that if soils are highly laden with organic matter that they are like a sponge and tend not to erode....doubly so with flat beds.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I use different practices for different beds, but I believe it is often beneficial to incorporate mulch into beds. I agree with other posters here that it is important never to leave bare soil, and use a regimen of mulch, cover crops, and season extension covers, depending on the next crop to be planted. I also have clay soil, so incorporating organic matter that increases aeration is important, and I grow some crops with that in mind - the stalks from sunchokes and sunflowers are particularly helpful. Once they are dessicated in the fall, I put them through the shredder and spread them over beds that will be mulched for the winter. After Christmas, I collect and shred Christmas trees, but I use this only to mulch paths outside the garden, because the wood takes too long to decompose and ties up too much nitrogen in the process. I like to plant cover crops in some beds that will winter-kill and act as a mulch till I get back to working that bed in the spring - for early crops, I simply rake away the residue, but for later crops, I take an old lawn mower with a de-thatching blade mounted and run over the bed while the ground is still frozen, then till it in once the ground is warm and dry enough for that process. There are advantages to fall tilling - exposing soil pests to killing conditions, encouraging dormant weeds to germinate and winter kill, early bed prep for earliest spring planting - but fall tilling requires some form of soil protection afterward to optimize the results. Ideally, I suspect mulch is best tilled in during the summer, leaving time to establish a healthy cover crop, or apply a fresh mulch, before winter returns.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

There is never a good time to till any mulch into soil and certainly no good reason to till in mulch so more can be added since all you need do is put the new mulch on top of the old. All that fall tilling has ever done for me is allowed the many winter "weeds" to grow so I had to till in the spring again anyway. Leaving the mulch in place all winter helped suppress any "weed" growth.
Soil, whether with adequate levels of organic matter or not will be blown around by winds at any time of year if left exposed to those winds and that is erosion. Organic matter, being lighter then the mineral component of soil, will tend to be moved by winds sooner then the mineral portion of soil which is moved by winds. There were pictures of soil erosion on the news a few weeks back.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I find that my clay soil has improved enough after 20 years of adding compost that it is actually better not to till it now. Tilling clay breaks up the sponginess that has developed as a result of wormholes and other burrowing critters, and the tiny root channels left behind by garden plants. Ideally I would like to not till at all, and just cover the soil with compost topped with some type of mulch (such as grass/leaves mix) after planting in the spring. The worms and microbes incorporate that material so that by fall it's actually gone and I'm seeing the soil surface again. I can dig up a dry chunk of soil and see all kinds of holes and channels in it.

The only reason I can't do that all the time is that shallow tree roots are growing into my beds and I have to dig in order to chop them up now and then. Otherwise I probably wouldn't dig at all except for planting holes. YMMV but this works pretty well for me.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

My MMV does vary even in different plots I have. For me there are good reasons to till a bit and not to till. For highly amended beds that are very loose, there isn't a traditional crumb structure to worry much about. I do like to speed up the decay of coarse residues and not have deep layers of cold and wet material on top for early planting sites.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 15, 11 at 14:52

Tilling kills tomato horn worm & other over wintering insects
in the soil.
I do it mostly to get raw leaves & coffee waste into the soil.
I use my beds all year & something is growing 10 months out of the year.
Even with two compost piles, it is easier to till the matter right into the soil.
I use partially decomposed organic matter & dry leave, with burlap bags as mulch.
So it is easy to turn it under at the end of the season.
A few beds lay untilled until February, so I plant oats or some other green crop on it.
Sometimes I mulch it, because of the deer eating the green oats or peas.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

Depending on one's climate, maybe it would be better to till in mulch. On the other hand there are certainly circumstances where it is both unnecessary and unwise. I.E. I've been adding about 6" per year of mixed tree chips under the fruit trees each Winter, this has been going on for 8 years now and the mulch always seems to have "disappeared" by this time of year. Obviously, the mulch is being consumed by the living soil organisms, that is a good thing. The same phenomenon happens with all of the yard clippings I use in the veggie garden rows, by about mid Sept. the majority of them have "disappeared", anything that hasn't just gets strewn about for Winter.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I forgot to mention I've only been gardening this spot for 2 years. I have mowed 10 FULL truckloads of mixed leaves over my ~1000 Sq ft garden. It settled out to a good 2 to 3 inches of mulch. I am concerned that it will slow down the ground from thawing out in a typical central Maine spring. My neighbor just shakes his head when he drives by, lol. then again he put the 10-10-10 'right to it'.


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RE: nitrogen tie up

If turned in would it effectively tie up nitrogen as in keep it in the rooting zone so when temps warm back up in the spring I haven't lost N do to leaching? Then mineralize? Or am I having a pipe dream?


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

The ground freezes solid here in MO as well and I have the same concerns. At some point in early spring I will start removing the huge mounds of leaves and compost and let the sun begin warming the soil. As soon as tomatoes etc. are planted I put mulch back on around them (leaves and grass clipping mix works well) to do its thing for summer.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 28, 11 at 14:52

toxcrusadr
I do not have that problem here.
Could you use black plastic with post holding it down to warm the compost/soil? Then story the BP & post til next Spring.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

thanks for the replies and info...


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

In response to the "never a good time to till in mulch" comment, if you use a mechanical seeder, like I do, that requires a clean, even seed bed, mulch makes efficient planting impossible. The more accurate statement is that there is likely never an appropriate time to use the word "never" when it comes to gardening.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

bi11me, what seeder do you have? How does it work for you?


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I have an EZ seeder for flats (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhSf6_uXo40), the 4 row pinpoint seeder (http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Plant-Seeds-Using-Four-Row-Pinpoint-Seeder-210872484 )(I would like the 6 row,) and an old earthway (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkl2YvG2Rd4). Each has easily earned it's keep in my system.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I'd like a 6 row of for nothing but carrots. Love the straight lines and even spaced, neat looking beds :)
I'll save my 600 bucks for now :(


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

Regarding mulching in general, my experience is that it is best used to maintain and improve soil in the condition that exists when the mulch is applied. Once you have created a good seed bed, mulch can be used almost constantly. Until you have that seed bed, it is easier to create it without having to contend with a thick layer of anything on top. Black plastic works as a mulch that eliminates light and prevents an increase in moisture - this can be of some value if those are conditions that would help in creating or preserving certain conditions in your particular situation. Other practices include stones, wood chips, straw, leaves, cork - the list is endless. The point is, one should choose a mulch that best fits into the system utilized and crops that are being produced. Obviously, one would be unlikely to want to till in black plastic or marble chips, and there are arguments to be made against many other materials being incorporated, for a variety of reasons, but the practice must be tailored to your particular situation, there are no definitive statements.

Jon, regarding your particular situation, in Maine, with mower-shredded leaves as a mulch, here is what I would do (again, based on MY cultural preferences). Leave the mulch in place over the winter. In early spring, while the ground is still frozen, but after snowmelt, install a dethatching blade on an old lawnmower ($15 on Craigslist) and drive it over the growing beds, blowing the further shredded leaves onto the paths between beds, and exposing the soil. Cover the exposed soil with clear (or if necessary black) plastic to encourage warming. Use long metal pipes or boards to hold down the plastic, (easier to remove). Once you see seedlings begin to emerge, lightly cultivate the soil in the beds, add any amendments necessary, and start planting or transplanting. Re-cover the beds with low tunnels or agricultural fabric to maintain soil temps and reduce erosion - think of this an an "elevated mulch". Once ambient temperatures are such that your crops can survive without the benefit of added protection, and assuming that you don't want them for other purposes (pest protection, earlier yield, better moisture control, etc) remove the coverings, utilize them on other crops, and rake the mulch that was deposited in the pathways between beds back around the established crops. Do so when the soil conditions in those beds are optimal - and the mulch will act to preserve those conditions.

But that's just me.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

The following thread in the Organic Gardening forum might provide some helpful hints as to what might be best for someone to do any given particular situation (whether to till or not to till). And there's some good info from "Teaming with Microbes" that might also be useful to you:

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/organic/msg1202520814763.html


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

Wow, it's cold and snowy in Vermont on a lazy day following Christams. I'm anxiously waiting for my three daughters, with three grandsons in tow, to come back home after spending their nights at an area Holiday Inn, and I started reading compost entries a couple of hours ago. What a lovely way to start the day. I've gardened for almost 50 years and still find so many interesting and useful things in these posts. For many years I rototilled my garden both spring and fall but for the last five years I haven't done so. There are good reasons to do it and there are good reasons not do it depending upon personal situations. I thought the links provided by Greenegarden and ZoysiaSod were especially useful. Many thanks.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I grow about one acre of vegetables in my various gardens.
Each fall I bag grass and leaves with my ride-on tractor and dump them on the garden where the crop has already been harvested. Rather than leave the material on the surface where it will dry up , I rototill it in as soon as possible , one or to passes to get the organic matter mixed in with the soil . This will better preserve the nutrients , and speed up the decomposition so the garden will be ready in the spring .
My objective is to turn my whole garden into one big compost pile .


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 23, 12 at 17:28

I have not had an erosion problem in 40 years, in a raised bed.
I tilled a bed & seeded it with mustard greens, then a dog walked though my bed(I was not there,found out later).
That night the rain puddled in the large dog tracks & I had 10 seeds in each track. But I had a good stand in the rest of the bed. I waited till the plants were 3 inches tall, then thinned & mulched. I could not mulch first, because I sowed the seeds in patch form, not rows.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

To make a statement like, "I have not had an erosion problem in 40 years, in a raised bed." belies science. I have seen soil particles blowing on the wind in many places throughout the USA during every season of the year. Anytime soil particles get blown by the wind, or moved by water, that is erosion.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

They said they have not had an erosion PROBLEM. They never said there was NO erosion at all.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 26, 12 at 18:32

Kimmsr you are welcome to come to Lugoff, S.C. to see for your self.
I have not had a water erosion problem, because of mulch & ground covers like burlap. I also have the beds close, so the path will caught any soil that falls when tilling & can be reclaimed just before the ground is wet and/or covered. I have not had a air/wind problem because of irrigation & burlap. Wet soil will not blow away in high winds or everyday weather.
The problem is not hard to deal with if you get off the net & work with it. After working on this land for many years I know what is needed to stop the problem before it ever starts, it is simple.
The song said "Dust in the wind", not mud in the wind.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

Kimmsr...Im sure if some one gave you a roto tiller as a gift youd commit suicide, the thought of someone using a brigg&stratton must make you blood preasure go up. Heres the deal Most of us arnt mother nature and cant or dont want to wait 10 years by mimicing nature when we can do it in one week. If someone wants soil erosion so be it the land is thiers they bought it and doesnt have to worship at your alter. All I know is that I till a lot amend a ton (fresh manure and leaves ) use lots of Peatmoss and suppliment with big bussiness Agrium fertilizer (that feeds earth) and have gorgeous bountiful gardens that dont look like some drunk threw up on my garden. You have some great knowledge but I really have to wonder do you drive to work? and how do you heat and light your home? and be sure you dont use a wood burning stove because your false CO2 god will be diappointed. PS earth has been cooling over the past 16 years.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by lonmower zone8 Western Oregon (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 10:24

Oil Robb...easy boy! Last time I checked, most of us live in FREE countries...where we are allowed to express our OPINIONS without recrimination. Kimmsr is only doing that...expressing his opinion.

I am only going to guess but besides rejecting Global Climate Change...you hate the Current Occupant. Also think that every household should have at least one assault rifle. And that access to health care should only be for those who can afford it.

Careful whilst you are out rototilling your garden. You should wear plenty of sunscreen for you don't want the back of your neck to get any redder than it already is.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by RpR_ 3-4 (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 12:11

lonmower...easy boy! Last time I checked, most of us live in FREE countries...where we are allowed to express our OPINIONS without recrimination. Oil Rob is only doing that...expressing his opinion.

I am only going to guess but besides bowing at Al Gore's Global Climate Change altar...you brown nose the Current Occupant. Also have zero knowledge that the word "assault rifle" is a political gimmick and that your health care should be paid for by anyone who works harder or earns more than you do .

Careful whilst you are out in your garden. You should wear plenty of sunscreen for you don't want to get skin cancer that you might have to pay for treating with your own money.

This post was edited by RpR_ on Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 18:17


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 13:26

Why not take it to Hot Topics kids.

Lloyd


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

I haven't been to Hot Topics in a long time. I found quickly that is was populated mostly by liberals who would gang up on other opinions....no thanks.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 19:19


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by RpR_ 3-4 (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 1:35

Well I went over to Hot Topics and use the same attitude and writing style addressing liberals, they are using addressing conservatives, and they DO NOT like it.

I think I will play around for day or two more and then let them have their narcissistic mutual admiration society.


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

These types of sharp responses to one another's comments seem to be much more common in the winter. I'm just guessing, but, it may be a lot of us miss the opportunities of getting our hands dirty working in the garden.


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Is your mind a steel trap?

  • Posted by lonmower zone8 Western Oregon (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 10:55

If only we could wouldn't divide
(Liberal vs Conservative)
If opinions weren't judged
(Right or Wrong)
-or-
(Right or Left)
If our minds weren't closed
(Like a steel trap)
"We might live as One"
Topics would not be "HOT"
(They would be "COOL")
Bias could not grow in the Garden!

This post was edited by lonmower on Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 10:57


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

When it comes to gardening, I think we should be fairly polite to each other.

When it comes to making moral and spiritual decisions, I go with the Apostle Paul who wrote, "The spiritual man judges all things."

Most people probably have only, "Judge not" without a knowledge of the rest of the sentences [two more thoughts]....let alone the dozens of calls in the scripture for judgment. The context where Jesus warned against judging was fitting for His audience..it doesn't pop onto all situations.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 15:52


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Listen to Jesus

  • Posted by lonmower zone8 Western Oregon (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 16:11

Wayne...

Fine...Paul wrote to "go ahead and judge others"

However... Jesus spoke as recorded in Luke 6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

As a Jesustarian... His words trump all others (for me)

Your words... "When it comes to gardening, I think we should be fairly polite to each other." So so true, my friend.

You jumped in after I responded to "Oil Robb's" post that started with this line.

Kimmsr..."I'm sure if someone gave you a rototiller as a gift you'd commit suicide,"

That sir... is not being "fairly kind"

This post was edited by lonmower on Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 16:13


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

lonmower,

Your rendition of the verses reads a bit different than the one I was using. "Judge not that ye be not judged. For with the same judgment you judge, shall you be judged."

I don't take this to be an outright commandment, but rather a warning that you will receive back the same treatment that you give out

I actually see a positive in it as there is hope for good judgement if we give good judgment. I would question the suggestion that we never judge anything....all the time likely, but it behooves us to give right judgment.

As far as judging between one of Jesus's hand picked apostles and Jesus, they are both right always if put in the right context.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 17:09


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

lonmower,

If I understand your post right, you posted: "You jumped in after I responded to "Oil Robb's" post that started with this line.

Kimmsr..."I'm sure if someone gave you a rototiller as a gift you'd commit suicide,"

That sir... is not being "fairly kind"
__________________________________________________________

I agree that Rob's post was not kind. And your retort surely was not better was it?

Also your post: 'Fine...Paul wrote to "go ahead and judge others" is not quite what I said which was, "The spiritual man judges all things.

I hope we can end this nicely. It is so important when quoting Scriptures to get into the context of who was being addressed and why.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 12:18


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

My point is..Im not going to be part of the collective socialist (BORG) If you google (like I do) soil ammending, you will find (as you have)hundreds of articles that mimic each other by authors usually young people that have zero back ground in gardening that are just cutting and pasting, the same talking points of how to ammend gardens and how to apply fertilizer promoting themselves all the while brain washing people who have a genuine interest in spending time in the back yard gardening. Ive read articles that go as far as scarying people into thinking that if they roto till the soil will be basically casterated for decades, or if you apply raw manure in the fall you are killing your family which is also a lie. The best one is that if you dont compost you are tieing up all this nitrogen,(just a cut and paste talking point never specifics) what a joke, Im retired at 48 (yes a capitalist). How about the one that says manure leaching into ground water, the microbes would have eaten everything before they ever have worked 10' down and had 100' of rainfallfall on it, but the cut and paste group will scare the hell out of you making you feel like youre killing your neighbors. In short you can use what you have with the knowledge you have, because if you listen to these Global warming self serving (make millions)clowns that dont take into consideration that the emerging markets China,India,Africa,South America,Russia will double the diesel burning autos on this planet by 2025 (University of Michigan).You will (or not) have a more fofilled time on this planet. One more small point, time to panic you over sensitive people, when your dog licks your hand where has that tongue been? my dog doesnt lick my garden but Ill bet a $1,000,000 that it has licked its A** where is the disease comming from? (youll over look that. My gand folks both lived to a ripe old age of over 80 (zero real doctors) used raw manure annually, mom is 69 and Dad is 74 and beleive it or not they apply use raw cow manure every fall and have forgotten more about soil managment than I will ever learn on the internet because of all the global warming self interest groups propogating thier lies. Now go rake all the forests(methane) and put a butt plug into every animal Turn off your furnace,lights and walk to work if you REALLY believe your stupidity (dont be a hypocrit, live it completely)

Be Kind? sometime the truth isnt kind. Ask a judge to be kind, the truth is what it is.

LOL..just food for thought...pun intended

This post was edited by Oil_Robb on Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 14:01


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 14:52

Canada eh? May I guess? Alberta?

Lloyd


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RE: Do You rototill in your mulch?

  • Posted by lonmower zone8 Western Oregon (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 15:20

The TRUTH is always kind, however sometimes it hurts!


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