Please Don’t Rototill!

Photo: Albert Cahalan, Wikimedia

Photo: Albert Cahalan, Wikimedia

Here’s Herbdoc with some timely advice:

What? Don’t rototill? Believe it or not, the newer recommendations tell us not to do it.

Most folks don’t want to retire their beloved tillers that turn the soil into what looks like a wonderful, well-weeded, smooth garden bed. Unfortunately we need to realize that while we’re grinding away at the soil, we are indeed changing the soil’s texture.

All soil is made up of particles of sand, silt and clay. When mixed together, there are many pore spaces in the sand that allow water to pass through and gases to be exchanged. The clay particles have tinier pore spaces that allow some water to collect for plant root use. This allows the roots to grow and access the nutrients in the soil.

When we rototill, the aggregate of the three particles are beaten to a fine dust. When it rains, the gardener ends up with a hard crusty surface that negatively impacts the soil microorganisms. Not only that but every weed seed in the bed comes to the surface and sprouts! Yikes!

I’ll admit that I still use my little rototiller in new spaces to till additional organic matter into the soil. This is a once a year proposition though and is done quite shallowly. My vegetable garden, like my herb garden, has been turned over to all raised beds. Weeding has become a thing of the past in these areas, and some scratching with a hand cultivator is all that is needed. Are the perennials next? Hmmm…


About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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9 Responses to Please Don’t Rototill!

  1. CJ Wright says:

    Hurray for raised beds and container gardening!! My little rototiller has been retired for years now. Other benefits? My knees and back don’t hurt as much and there’s so much less weeding that I wish I had switched years ago.


    • dirtynailz says:

      Do you think this trend is about those of us who are getting a little older finding ways to garden more comfortably? I’m with you, CJ!


      • CJ Wright says:

        GASP! Of course not, dn!

        For me, it got down to having too much yard to tend. Container gardening not only made it easier, it reduced the size of my yard in a way. The space between containers is mulched and practically carefree.

        Then again, my creakier-than-a-decade ago bones don’t mind it either. 🙂


      • dirtynailz says:

        Right on, CJ. My knees hear you.


  2. herbdoc says:

    I’m with you CJ! Isn’t amazing how much gardening work we make for ourselves when it could be so much easier! I’m all for less lawn and more herbs and flowers too! 🙂


  3. Lee says:

    Nope, never did, never will. Sometimes, less is the right thing to do.


    • dirtynailz says:

      My experience with a rototiller occurred just once, when someone brought one to my house to create a new garden bed out of tall grass. It didn’t work at all well, and kept getting caught in the vegetation. I guess they’re falling out of favor for reasons other than their soil-destroying properties.


      • herbdoc says:

        Oh yeah! There’s nothing worse than rototiller tines with vines and weeds stuck around them. I don’t miss that one all, and ditto for the noise and gas fumes!


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