Last spring, we started tilling too early and I think it damaged the soil a bit. With the soil being pretty wet, the tilling compacted it into clumps. The soil remained pretty clumpy all summer. And in the soils I tilled first, they remained the clumpiest and the vegetables there grew the worst. We want to go no-till, but we have a grass problem that we need to take care of and I think it’s going to take a lot more than hand weeding to take care of the problem.
I decided to get a broad fork. I’ve never used a broad fork, but the principle makes sense, rather than beating the soil with a high powered machine, you put long tines into the ground and then pry up. It loosens the soil, dislodges weeds and can be done by hand.
We looked a bit online, but I didn’t really know what I was looking for since I have never used one. …and the were really expensive. So I called my dad. He said it would be easy and for much less than the price of a broad fork, he built me one. It is the best broad fork I have ever used.
OK, it is also the only broad fork I have ever used, but it worked very well. I spent an hour or so hand tilling a garden row yesterday. It was a lot of work. The tool is rather heavy, which makes it easier to get into the ground, but makes lifting a bit tiresome. It took quite some time to work the soil I wanted to work, but in the end, I have a bed that has over a foot of loosened soil with all of the weeds turned in and with little compaction.
When I really think about it, it may have taken longer with the tiller. While the tiller moves faster and is automated, it would have taken several runs over the area to really penetrate the soil and I still wouldn’t have been as deep as I am with the broad fork. Physically it would have been a little less work with the tiller, but the non-clumpy soil with minimal disruption to microbial life makes it worth while. Besides, I needed the workout.
I’m looking forward to getting out there and spending some more time with the broad fork. I think it is going to help,solve both our soil compaction problem and help control our weed problem.