Emergency garden reboot

Well, nothing like scrapping plans in the middle of execution and trying something else!

I went out this morning and picked up a 5hp rototiller at the rental place. My dear, sweet, and immensely strong husband had offered to run it for me, but I needed to pick it up because he was waiting for the arrival of his iPad. Yes, he actually volunteered to do mucky, heavy garden work knowing that he might not be done by the time the long-awaited toy arrived. He’s awesome, is my guy. 🙂

Anyway, we wrestle the beast out to the garden and fire it up…and it yanked his arms nearly out of the sockets and dragged him across the garden. It seemed far more interested in going forward than digging down into the dirt. A few more tries, and we wrote it off: this thing was just too hard to handle. Note to self: never rent a front-tine tiller again. We rented a big rear-tine one several years ago, and it was much more manageable.

So, what to do? This is the only rental place on our side of town. They do have a rear-tine tiller, though it’s out today, so nothing was going to happen on that front now. I drove home thinking about the problem.

There are several issues. One, the lack of a controllable tiller. Two, I’m philosophically a no-till gal. It’s better for the soil, and I’d much rather have a garden that can feasibly be maintained with only human power. And the back garden backs up to the “wild” part of the yard: 75 feet long, but only 10 feet wide. That’s an awful lot of edge, and even if the alfalfa/clover “buffer” I planned to till up today works, it would probably take a couple years to really eradicate the quack grass (or whatever that rhizome-grass is). And the final piece of the puzzle: one of the things we were going to do was to till up some space for a compost crop garden.

This is the idea that came to me on the way home: Convert the back garden into the compost garden. I’ve always expected the compost garden would have a lot of grass in it, in addition to the flax, sunflowers, phalecia, and borage I’m going to plant, so invading rhizomes are not such a big deal. That 750 sf is moderately ready for planting (aside from the rhizomes nibbling away at the back edge), so the compost crops would be able to get a good start without competing with grass.

This seems like a good plan to me. It rather drastically reduces my food-producing square footage this year, but that might not be all bad. I will have to figure out what to do with some of the seed potatoes I bought; I planned for 300sf but will probably only plant 100sf. Hmm, maybe I can tuck those in with the compost for this year…

Now the big question: what pattern should the compost garden be in? Squares? Comingled? Stripes? Latitudinal or longitudinal?



  1. Suzie said,

    April 4, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Well, long long stripes would mean you’d be able to see all the different flowers & colors along the whole thing. You could put the tallest things in back & the shortest things in front.

  2. Randy Gogolin said,

    April 8, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Emilia Hazelip has a video on you tube and google video called “synergistic gardening”, that is along the lines of the direction you’re heading. She has an excellent idea for sheet mulching a potato bed with no till, just lots of hay. Maybe you could try planting some of your seed potatoes this way! I’ve found this is an excellent way of ‘breaking ground” and the seed bed it makes for next year is exquisite.

    • Emily said,

      April 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm

      I’ve always done my potatoes this way. 🙂 I get great results – over 1lb per square foot last year.

  3. Cloud said,

    December 30, 2011 at 1:28 am

    how many pounds did you need to plant out the 300sf plot you were going for?

    • Emily said,

      December 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      A *rough* estimate is 10lb per 100sf. I do “single drops”, meaning I don’t cut my potatoes before planting. So when I buy them, I pick out the ones that are about the size of an egg. The number of those per pound varies a lot.

  4. Cloud said,

    December 30, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Awesome. Thanks! The last few days I’ve been nonchalant about the process. Must be waking up to the snow covering. Spent today outside putting down the couple of raised beds I made. Leveling them, getting the pathways even etc. Neighbors become awfully chatty when they see you doing something different in the front yard, especially when it happens to be cold and rainy. I am getting excited again, however, as the rain has melted the snow away… I can see my calorie crop raised beds again. Tomorrow will be warm and without precip. *Meaning a nice day to work the soil*

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