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February 2018
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Magically Self-Tilling Soil

I have to preface this post by saying that I do not advocate tilling of the soil.  However if you are planting a root or tuber crop its a little hard to say don’t till.  That being said, I do not till.  I normally get out the Rogue Hoe and pull the soil back, plant and refill.  I love my hoe and hoeing is a very zen activity for me.  But it is pretty tough on the back and as they say – I ain’t gettin’ any younger.

So when I went out this last weekend to dig a few trenches for potatoes I was both looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time.

I knew where I wanted to plant.  It was an area that was reputed to have tons of woodchips dumped on it.  I knew the area vaguely.  There were a lot of these strange small trees (I really have to ID them come spring) in it so I knew I’d have to chop some of them down as well.  So I chopped one a few times and I saw the whole ground move – what the ???

I grabbed the mangled little tree and pulled and to my surprise the roots came up with it.

I pulled harder and more roots.

I kept pulling and more roots.

When I surveyed the result, pulling the roots out had essentially turned the soil and left a nice little trench for planting potatoes.  IT’S SELF-TILLING SOIL (mostly)!

The thought occurred to me.  If you were going to dump some compost on a garden bed for an upcoming planting but you didn’t want to hoe away or till when planting time came you could lay wires or durable strings parallel in the garden and when you were ready to plant simply pull them gently and steadily.  The string would pull the dirt aside and leave perfect little furrows.

Really radically, you could try planting something that was shallow rooted and fast growing (I gotta find out what these trees are!) and pull it out come planting time.  Ok, that might be a little extreme.

All I know is 15 minutes of work and I’m planting potatoes tomorrow!

6 comments to Magically Self-Tilling Soil

  • Rmfaunce2

    Liked this article.  I started permaculture/lasagna gardening 2 years ago.  Hope to have a great garden this year.

    But I am using the old chicken yard to plant Amaranth, and the ground where I have had mulch dumped this past year (for distribution) as a no till potato bed.

  • Jason

    I completely agree.  Love the lasagna garden.  I never put all of my eggs in one basket and neither are you!  I just need more growing room.  I’ve got a little patch that the chickens have pecked bare.  I’ve got a raised bed and I’ve got this new potato patch.  The soil was just too rich! 

  • I can’t ID it for sure but I know around here (Wisconsin) we have a very similar shrub kind of tree that has a red stem, until they get older, then the red fades away. We call them dogwood. Anyways, they do the same thing. Long, shallow roots that when you pull the main stem the root makes a furrow. Nature figured out this business of food production a long time ago 🙂

  • Matthew from Gooseneck, Ga

    Interesting. I am trying to tackle the no filling concept. Naturally everyone down here thinks I am out of my mind!
    How do I plant two acres using no till methods?
    Any suggestions?

  • Anonymous


  • It is one thing to read about tilling but it would be better if photos are provided, which is what you have done in this post. In this way, readers will understand how tilling is done and when to do it especially if they are planning to plant root crops. Thanks for the info!