Let’s Talk Tillers

Oh, good lord, people, I just learned that there is this thing called eco feminism that somehow involve only poking tiny holes between your blades of grass and planting in a way that doesn’t defile mother earth.  I would have thought, and in fact remain suspicious that it actually is, that eco feminism would be about the ways in which environmental damage is borne disproportionately on the bodies of women.  But not tilling your garden will not liberate me; I’m just saying.

Forcing libertarians to clean my bathtub while the crankiest of them are coerced into rubbing my head while I drink their beers?  I might find that liberating.  I don’t know.  I’d have to try it a couple of times to see, but I’m betting.

Anyway, so my plan is thus.  We’re going to measure out the size of the garden and till it all.  I’m keeping in mind Bridgett’s admonition to not till what you don’t want to weed, but I’m going to stand in my far back yard, beyond the creek, and decide how best to measure and mark that and leave room for marigolds everywhere.

My only question is this–how do I, not owning a truck, get the tiller to my house and back?  Are there ones small enough to fit in my trunk/backseat if I put the seat down?  Why didn’t we listen to the Butcher when he said he wanted a pickup truck?

32 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Tillers

  1. Yes, that part of eco-fem does sound wiggy until you realize that much of the pesticide load put on gardens (and thus into the water and food we consume, to be lodged in ever-concentrating amounts in women’s fatty tissue) is put there to kill weeds. So the one thing does have to do with the other…

  2. how do I, not owning a truck, get the tiller to my house and back?

    the Home Labyrinth Depot near me rents a great big pickup truck by the hour. sure, it’d be another fifty bucks or so on top of what you’re paying for the tiller, but that’s still cheaper than buying a truck.

  3. oookay, so wordpress doesn’t like the strikeout tag it seems. is there a blogging site that doesn’t totally suck…? (other than livejournal? maybe my answer is just “use livejournal, the damn emo kids have it right after all”…)

  4. Those huge tillers are hard to maneuver. Our old neighbor had one. He was a tall, strong guy and still had trouble wrangling that thing. Then I’d get out there with my little Mantis and get the same work done with 1/10 the effort. Do you know anyone who has one of those? Can you put a note up at work asking, maybe? A Mantis might be something to consider for the future; I’ve had mine about 20 years and it still works great.

  5. LOL! I’ve never seen a tiller to big to get into a car. You planning on tilling or plowing? :) Then I went to looking for pictures because I figured you knew what you were talking about. I found this page that has a pretty good listing of how big they are and how much they cost, etc.,etc.


    I had to laugh when i saw the “wooden handle high wheeled cultivator” because i remember using one of those when i was a kid, to plant the house garden.

  6. Anybody have recommendations for a model that will get through some tree roots (I would say up to about a 3″ diameter)?

  7. Yes. I got one from the Lowes. Infact, we’re using it this weekend to turn the garden and then heading over to Vince’s meemaw’s and getting her garden going.

    God, I hope your ecofeminists can forgive you for plowing Mother Earth and impregnating her with your octo-cukes.

  8. you’ll pretty much need to contact someone with a truck, B. There are smaller tillers with the tines in the front that might fit in a trunk or back seat – depending on the car – but they’re better for providing vibration to your arm muscles than actual tilling previously untilled ground. Ideally, you want one that has the tines in the rear AND one that has tines that rotate in the direction OPPOSITE to the drive wheels.

    Rachel, that would be an axe and a shovel — or a Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer.

  9. Hmm…That eco feminism planting idea sounds an awful lot like no-till planting. Which is a real thing that real farmers actually do. Some of them anyway. It was a bit of a fad a decade or so back.

  10. Yep. And no-till stems erosion and is better for loss of soil moisture, but it requires a year to get in place. You have to put in a forage crop like soybeans or rye and then mow it late in the crop cycle to use it for thatch, then do the no-till planting for large seed and late-maturing plants. If you want early ripening, no till isn’t a good way to go and likewise, if you get more grass weeds than broadleafs, you’ll not have good results.

    (I guess those organic farming seminars in Iowa really stuck, huh?)

  11. Rachel, try a mattock.

    Oh, yeah, I have one of those too – but an axe tends to be a bit sharper than cutting roots with Andy Griffith.

    Oh, mattock, not matlock….

  12. My dad had a Troy-Built Pony (the mid-size one) rear tine rototiller. It was extremely easy to use, and didn’t buck all over the place, because it was a rear-tiller. If you could rent one of those, it might take you only a day to till the garden twice over, maybe two.

    Then he laid black plastic over the soil to hold back weeds. And keep in moisture. Which doesn’t sound like much of a problem at your place.

  13. Oh, also. Don’t till deep on the first pass, with any tiller. Didn’t know if you knew that. It looks like grass and soil, so just a few inches at a time will make the job easier. But longer. But you won’t wear yourself out.

  14. Troy-Built rear tine tillers are great and very easy to use. I have a tiller and a truck but live nearly 200 miles from any where in Tennessee.

    Bridgett – I think you forgot the difference between pesticide and herbicide. Herbicide kills weeds. You know what you’re talking about from you comment on no-till planting. Lots of farmers in my area still do it.

    I till my garden but don’t use any pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer. Planting marigolds with the tomatoes keeps lots of insects away. There are other plants that bad insects don’t like. I use a hoe to kill the weeds every two weeks or so. My dog keep the deer and varmits away.

  15. RE: no-till, the Ruth Stout method would allow you to get started at essentially the thatch stage if your initial layer is composed of newsprint (many pages) or cardboard (one sheet).
    This is also sometimes referred to as lasagna gardening
    Introductory information from Mother Earth News:


  16. There is a landscaping company by us that will bring out their tiller and, well, till things up for you. I have no idea what they charge for something like that or if that is unique to a super suburban area like where I am, but that might also be an option.

  17. While you are “poking tiny holes between your blades of grass and planting in a way that doesn’t defile mother earth” be sure to wear a mask over your mouth so you don’t accidentally inhale tiny gnats, as some of the more extreme religious sects do.

  18. Do you know how big your garden will be?? I’m assuming you are kind of wanting a section about 24×16, which is about the size my uncle has. He has a front tine tiller and it works great, but he does make several passes thru his garden with it. Obviously it will be a bit harder since it is the first time, but if you want to cut down on the weeds and the tilling time I would suggest taking off the sod layer with shovels first…. Just make sure your shovel has a sharp end on it and you are not digging down, just skimming the top layer off.

  19. DADvocate — right you are. I meant herbicide; I should think before I type. I have no garden at the moment, but when I do, I till a bare minimum (there are some things that just seem to do better in a cultivated bed). My hoe is my favorite implement of destruction, good for everything from cutting filth to chasing the possum out of the yard. (If you saw the very urban place I’m living, you’d know why it’s hilarious to think that I have more possums here than I ever did in Kentucky.)

  20. I just wanted to announce that I got my old barbecue pit removed yesterday! And there’s real dirt underneath where it was, which I hadn’t been sure about. What’s the best, cheapest way to turn it into a couple of terraces, rather than one very sloping bed? I was just going to use concrete pieces from the old barbecue to make a little retaining wall in the middle of it, but my husband thinks that will fall down the first time it rains.

  21. If it’s not that tall you could probably get away with just using the old concrete. Especially if it’s shaped for easy stacking. If you aren’t interested in looks maybe some concrete block like they use for house footers…

  22. You just gave me an idea for making a cinderblock platform for my future rain barrel, too. W, I most definitely owe you some tomatoes or marinara or something this summer for all your suggestions.

  23. The part of a retaining wall that makes it stable isn’t necessarily the retaining material used, it’s how that material is stacked. Urbanite, or used concrete, makes good retaining wall material and stable as long as the construction is sound (sloped back against the hill, overlapped seams). You’ll want a nice sledgehammer to break it into workable pieces, since concrete is really heavy and you may get discouraged trying to hoist and reposition anything larger than 12″ X 12″. I did this to create a “flagstone” walk in our front yard and nothing’s better than swinging a sledgehammer to work out your week’s frustrations. If you can get someone to sing “Po Lazarus” to you while you break rock, you can make it a transcendental experience.
    Here are some good instructions for general retaining wall construction, useful for any material, but dry stack construction would most closely resemble urbanite construction.

  24. Quick word on eco-feminism – it’s as varied and still-in-dialogue as any other feminism. I’ve mostly run into it from my food research (feminist vegetarianism) and it’s pretty fraught. The most convincing work I read suggested that vegetarianism is an ethical eating choice, but positing vegetarianism as an ideal diet is not ethical. . . but a number of other works sound like folks have personal axes to grind (ha!) about meat-eating and feminism is a thin sort of cover for that. At first I was like, “Oh god should I give up bacon then?” but now I’m acquainted with more sides of the issue. ; )

  25. Dianne, thanks for that. I am going to name my additional garden plot The Tiny Cat Pants Commenters’ Celebratory Vegetable Garden, all hundred square feet or less of it.

  26. nm, I think urbanite is better for vertical construction (the retaining walls) than horizontal (patios and paths) owing to the variance in concrete thickness. It’s a bitch to dig out then refill a trench if some of your pieces are (like mine) 3″ thick on one end and 4″ on the other.
    I’ve seen lovely retaining walls made with urbanite and then treated with a ferrous solution to stain. Some professional solutions are acidic and etch the concrete surface, but I’ve read you can achieve a decent staining with iron sulfate, or copperas, from the fertilizer section of your hardware store.
    Yayy! gardens!

  27. I love gardening blogging, seriously. I am learning so much. Though I’m still waiting for someone to tell me if I plant my cornflowers and daisies now, if I’ll still have to wait until next year to get flowers, or if I can count on the sure-to-happen cold snap or two to force them to do whatever it is they do over the winter that lets them bloom the year after.

    What say you, wise internet?

  28. I have to confess that I’ve purchased some grown coneflowers to plant in my garden so that I can have flowers this year from them.

    I know. I know. But I’m impatient! And a big baby!

  29. Electric tillers are much quieter because they are electric powered. They are much easier to maneuver because of their size and they will get into tight areas with ease. However, they have much less powered when compared to gas models and will have a tougher time breaking hard soil. They are also much small and therefore will not cover as much ground and will make large projects very time consuming.

    Gas tillers are nosier because of the gas engine and will also require much more maintenance. However, gas roto tillers are a great tool for breaking hard soil and for cultivating a lot of ground in little time. They also have larger tines that can dig deeper much more easily.

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