Let Worms Till Your Garden Beds

comments (3) June 15th, 2010

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Let earthworms do the soil tilling in your garden.
Photo by Will Merydith under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Let earthworms do the soil tilling in your garden.


Photo by Will Merydith under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

I was chatting today about composting with a dear gardening friend when the subject of tilling came up. We laughed about how we tell people that we're "lazy" gardeners that don't want to work that hard in our garden spaces. While that's a quick and easy answer, it's really only a half-truth. The whole truth is that it's simply not necessary (nor desirable) to till garden beds. Turns out that Mother Nature knows how to mix soil with the best of them.

The compost that you add to the beds can be placed and spread out right on top of the soil - no mixing needed. Let your friendly neighborhood worms will do that heavy-lifting for you. Worms are good at their job and in fact, if you're tilling with any regularity you could be killing off up to 90% of your garden worms.

This isn't a good thing (in case you were wondering). You want worms for decomposition, aeration and filtration in the garden. Tilling also kills other beneficial creatures such as spiders. Again, in the context of a garden, spiders are very desirable.

While there's nothing wrong with turning compost or other soil amendments into the first couple inches of soil; deep-tilling (roto-tilling) is somewhat of a controversial issue. Deep-tilling describes the slicing and dicing of soil particles over and over. And truth be told, roto-tillers have their place. I mean if you need to break up that front lawn - go ahead and give it a go-over. But just once, okay? There are other instances that call for deep-tilling, but as a general practice, it's taboo anymore.
So, in one camp there are the gardeners who feel that tilling is a necessary procedure to help create a loamy soil. The gardeners in the other camp say that tilling brakes up the aggregates in the soil not to mention messing with the relationship between mychorrhizae and plant roots. I personally fall into the no-tilling-gardener-category. But then, I'm kind of lazy.

posted in: worms, roto-tilling garden beds

Comments (3)

robicook writes: One of the best
Posted: 7:47 am on August 22nd
bobsmith21 writes: Great Idea I am definitely going to try this
Posted: 12:24 am on July 13th
ilovegreen writes: What a wonderful idea. I was thinking something similiar. I noticed that when semi decomposed leaves are on bare soil and saturated it with water, beneath the leaves after a few days is saturated with red earth worms and the soil is so wonderfully "fluffy". So yeah mother nature does a wonderful job......
Posted: 10:04 pm on April 27th
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