03. Plowing and Tilling
Turning over the earth is an absolute essential duty. You need to turn over the dirt to plant your seeds, but also to increase soil gases, as roots require access to carbon dioxide, the gas that is the primary required gas for plant metabolism. So tilling provides aeration for root structures and sets the stage for planting.
Any good tilling machine can turn over your earth fairly quickly, or you can use manual methods like shoveling. Since shoveling provides a hearty workout, you may forgo this by purchasing a quality tilling machine or mechanical plow.
Plows turn over the topsoil, while they create a natural fertilizer from dead plant materials. These are the plants killed by plowing. Plowing also removes weeds. Humans, oxen, and horses have pulled plows. Today’s plows are pulled by motorized tractors. Originally there was no plow – in the beginnings of agriculture, there only existed handtools. In these very rich areas, the natural flooding turned the soil. In most other areas, the soil needed to be turned manually to produce richer topsoil.
The original plow was called a moldboard plow. This plow allowed a complete turn of the soil in a single pass. All modern plows have a sharpened blade or “disc”. The discs or blades lift the earth and turn it over.
Europe’s plows from 1400-1890 all use metal blades and animals to pull the plow. The disc blades used in the modern plow is very different from the design used in the late 1800s. While there exists much more complex plow designs, the basic cast steel or iron concave disc that looks much like a “spade” design was a common tool during recent times. This plowing technique creates furrows and troughs. These furrows and troughs create uneven grooves in the ground and can dramatically increase erosion. This erosion can lead to an increase in topsoil loss through wind and rain. The topsoil grows richer with each year as more dead plant material is deposited and the earth grows richer in decomposed materials. The loss of the very rich topsoil is devastating to future crops.
Today’s plows reduce erosion by not producing ridges and furrows. These plows also create a double action that turns earth completely. This modern plowing action is more efficient than older techniques used by simple mounted plows. The modern plow is called a semi-mounted plow. Today’s plow enriches the ground with CO2, gets rid of weeds, and certain bacteria. The fact that these plows turn the earth completely creates a far more efficient action.
These points underscore why anyone who wishes to cultivate should turn the earth. No-till farming is a good example of not turning the earth to achieve maximum results. No till farming does not turn the earth, and allows old plant material to remain. Herbicide is used to remove unwanted plants, and the earth is enriched naturally.
Your little garden doesn’t require a lot of tillage or herbicide, but you should understand the importance of maximizing your plants’ health by turning over the earth, reducing competition with weeds and increasing aeration.