March 10

Tilling to get rid of weeds and grass

It was more preparation work today as I tilled to get rid of weeds and grass in the garden that I did today. Since I am re-designing my back garden I have to change the layout that I used last year. This includes a center grass path that will have planting beds on either side. Some of the areas that will be planting beds this season, just had lawn last season. I have to get rid of that lawn before I can plant with confidence that I won't have a grassy and weedy mess this year.

Also, part of this area was tilled and worked over well about a year ago so there really is no grass growing at the moment. Just some weeds such as chickweed. Chickweed roots are not very stubborn at all and I can remove them easily. Plus, when it warms up the chickweed seems to die back. But, the part of it where grass was is another story.

The grass roots hold the soil together well. It's very firm. I can't work the soil until this is broken up so I decided to use some help from one of my favorite power tools, my sunjoe tiller, and use it's power to get some blades in the ground to loosen that soil up and dig up as many grass root clumps as I could.

This photo explains what I'm doing and why.

The red lines show the outlines of where the center path of lawn will eventually be.

The red number "1" shows where I started tilling out the planting bed that will be on the left side of this center grass path. The red number "2" shows how the grass looked in the area labeled "1" before I tilled it up.

I till it with the sunjoe tiller and then rake the soil level and see if there are any grass clumps the tiller missed. If there are I repeat the tilling process and rake the soil level again.

If there are some obvious large white roots I may bend down to remove them by hand, but I don't mind the grass blades getting mixed back into the soil. It provides good fresh organic matter back to the soil. 

The goal of tilling is to loosen the soil to make it workable while at the same time digging up the roots of grass and weeds. I could do something similar with a shovel or hoe, and I do sometimes begin the work that way. Eventually I become a little frustrated at the speed of doing it manually and break out the mechanical help. Remember, every from of cultivation is just sticking some type of blade into the ground. In the case of a tiller, it's about 4 blades that rotate mechanically thus saving me a bunch of time and effort.

The result doesn't have to be perfect as far as the grass and roots being removed. And, I admit, I am a perfectionist and have been guilty of trying to make it too perfect in the past. I look for it to just be workable because I cultivate frequently (not deeply, just the first few inches of the soil) and the repeated disturbance assures most grass and weeds will no regrow.

Here's a closeup of the soil after it is tilled.

Those little grass blades that you see are, for the most part, sitting on the soil surface. They have been dug up by the roots so they won't grow back when it warms up. If there are a few areas of grass that were missed by the tilling and are still rooted into the soil, I can use a hoe later on and manually dig those out.

This went fairly well and I will continue this process on either side of the center path.


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