from sky to seed

Tiller Killer

See that green? It’s almost ALL WEEDS. Argh!!! At least the electric tiller feels like vengeance.

Weeds are my nemesis.

Jon tilled our field in mid-May.  Two weeks later, the thing was blooming green — and it wasn’t my veggies.

Weeds.  WEEDS!  Baby broadleaves.  They look so cute now but when they're grown, oh, when they're grown.

Baby broadleaf weeds. They look so cute now but when they’re grown, oh, when they’re grown…

“You have got an absolute weed garden,” Jon declared.

We’ve tried a variety of methods — hand-tilling, hand-pulling, electric tillers, Jon even came in with the bobcat to level the rows that still haven’t been planted.  And mulch, mulch, mulch, I know, I know.  But the garden is SO huge, and mulch is SO expensive…  And I can’t put down mulch on those newly tilled soils until the seedlings come up, right?  Because we direct sow and don’t transplant…


And it’s not broadleaf weeds that are my main problem, but grass, which plants wide heavy roots that are impossible to pull up by hand.  I bought a garden hoe, but my aim is imprecise and I’ve done a fair share of unintentional corn hacking.  And the electric tiller is fantastic, but the field is so rocky that rocks constantly get wedged in between the blades, putting the little engine at risk for burning up.  It’s also a little wiley — I’ve accidentally killed a lot of squash plants in recent days.

The tool that I’ve found works best is the Weasel 3-in-1 Corkscrew Action Tiller Pro that I picked up from Lowe’s.  It’s alright on big broadleaves, but magic on grass.  Twisting the tool through the soil is a bit of a workout, but that’s not too problematic unless it’s one of those 85+ degree days out.  It sucks the dirt out in breakable clods, freeing the grass and its roots so that you can dump them in a bucket and dispose in the compost.

But it’s still a process.  And a lot of sore muscles.

4 Responses to “Tiller Killer”

  1. J.D. McLaughlin

    Our garden isn’t nearly as large as what you’re working with, of course, but we used a sod cutter. It was the best thing we’ve ever done–very little weeding, and most of it is on the ends where there’s still grass from the rest of the yard.

    It was a lot of work for a 40 x 30 area, so I don’t know of it would even be practical/possible for you for next year, but just a thought!

    • Rose

      Thanks for the advice! I’m still definitely in the process of figuring all this out. What do you do to eliminate or cut down on weeds between plants?

      • J.D. McLaughlin

        Bear with me, I’m going to talk a lot!

        I’m still figuring it out for us, too 🙂 Weeds have always been my downfall–every other time I’ve had a garden it “failed” because of weeds. Everything still produced, but you never knew what you would catch wading through weeds as tall as your hip.

        This year we decided go big or go home. Technically, I would have converted more of my yard to growing, but we stalled out some…. So we have two “plots”–one 40 x 30, one 36 x 15. And then raised beds/containers/etc. that aren’t relevant here.

        My weed management strategy? Smother everything. The first three pictures are of the 40 x 30–we removed about 1-2 inches of sod in the beginning of April, tilled it the same weekend and…. left it alone until we planted in May. We did the same thing to a narrow alley about 50 feet long and 4 feet wide in the back. It wasn’t perfect, probably because it’s so narrow, the weeds can cross too easily–it does, however, work for squash/pumpkins, which will spread out anyway.

        We may pick a weed or two every week, but I don’t really run through and weed but every 2 weeks. Picture 3 is after about 2 weeks of not weeding. Cutting out sod was the best thing I ever did, thus why I recommend if you can get a heavy-duty sod cutter or get/make one for a tractor…. Try that.

        Fourth picture is the smaller “plot.” Very little weeds and it is getting better as time goes by. It actually worked out better than I thought–we put down one layer of newspaper and covered it with another 6-8 inches of compost. We only did this in June and there are barely any weeds. We didn’t use the method that’s usually recommend, which is to do this about 6 months in advance. It’s working for us, but would probably be a lot of effort and money for little return for your endeavor.

        Just to compare, the last picture is about 3 x 8 feet of space that we just tilled in place. It was already a little patchy with grass, so not the worst area, but as you can see it has about as many weeds as our 40 x 30 plot.

        In conclusion….. I’m lazy about weeding, and using a sod cutter this year was the best thing I’ve ever done!

  2. Rose

    JD — thanks for the generous reply. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you! I am still learning my way around wordpress and comment approving. Your garden looks FANTASTIC. I’ve caved and am going to pick up (free!!!) mulch tomorrow morning, but if that doesn’t work I may have to invest in a sod cutter…


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