I know that there are better ways to go than tilling and we are working on getting there, but for now, I’m running the rototiller a lot. Chickens or pigs would have been a better choice for turning over the soil, and tilling up the sod. I have no desire to have pigs, and the number of chickens that it would take to till up the land that we have would have been unreasonable. And we didn’t have enough time. We want to grow vegetables and that just wasn’t going to be possible in the timeline we had envisioned.
While we hope to add chickens to our rotation, that is something for the future. For now I’m using my rototiller. The idea is to get the land good and tilled and using it sparingly for the next couple of years and then not using it anymore. We have ideas for cover crops and rotations and chicken tractors and some light hand tilling, but we still have to figure that out. For now we’ve been spending a lot of time tilling. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’.
The theory that I’ve read about converting pastureland to farmland is that it takes a lot of tilling. You go over the turf once (which I have done) and then you wait a week. Then you till the field again and wait a week. Then you till the field one final time just before you plant.
I believe that the way it works is that the first tillage kills the turf and then in the week of waiting it starts to reset. Just as the turf is trying to reset, you break it all up again. And then as weeds and turf start to grow again, you till it and kill it. We are hoping that will minimize our weed pressure. I know that we’re still going to struggle with weed pressure, but I’m hoping this will be a step in the right direction.
And… just as I’m writing this my wife come and asks me if we can expedite this process. We had a mechanical problem with our tiller and some rain (this is western Washington) so we couldn’t start tilling as early as possible. Now if we want to get our plants into the ground in time to get our product to market, we’re going to have to cut some corners. Maybe it will work out for us. Or it could cause some major weed pressure later in the season. We will see…