Tilling

DCGP gardeners can sign up to have their plot tilled by DCGP when they register online.

Gardeners in ground plots (not raised beds) are welcome to till their plots on their own, pay DCGP to till their plots for them, not not till their plot at all. Consider the information below when deciding whether or not to till.


To till or not to till?

It is up to each gardener to decide for themselves whether they want tilling or not. See some of the pros and cons of tilling below.

Pros of Tilling

  • Aerates the soil
  • Breaks up roots, organic matter, and compacted earth
  • Chops up weeds and reduces weed pressure immediately after tilling
  • Smooths and loosens the soil, increasing the ease of direct seeding and planting starts

Tilling is most beneficial when you are able to get out to your plot promptly after tilling to insure weeds do not reestablish themselves. It is best to remove pieces of weeds from a freshly tilled plot and plant desired plants, and/or cover the soil in some way, to reduce the likelihood of weeds growing back. Keep in mind that tilling does not "get rid of weeds," but instead cuts weeds up and spreads them around. This kills some plants, but spreads others.


Cons of Tilling

  • Harms beneficial fungus, bacteria, and other soil organisms
  • Creates compaction deeper down
  • Spreads weed roots like quackgrass, sunchokes, and horseradish, increasing their prevalence later in the season
  • Can increase overall weed pressure by bringing buried weed seeds to the surface

Many consider no-till gardening a more environmental method of gardening because of its benefits to soil health. Other methods can be used to suppress weeds and prepare a garden bed such as sheet mulching (aka lasagna gardening), solarizing with black plastic, and using a broadfork. Books describing these gardening methods and garden tools are available in the DCGP office.


Advice from DCGP

If you are new to a garden plot ask DCGP staff what kind of condition it is in, and if they advise tilling. If you have been caring for a plot for several seasons and are weeding regularly, try a year without tillage. You might find with keeping up with weeds is actually easier when you don't till!


The deadline to sign up and pay for spring DCGP tilling is April 15th, 2020.


Plots will be tilled in late April and throughout May. Plots wanting tilling must be cleared of all tools, infrastructure, large plant residues and other debris. DCGP Land Stewardship Committee will do its best to provide a schedule of tilling time and date at each garden. However, tilling is subject to weather, soil, and staffing schedule changes, so gardeners are encouraged to clear their plot early and keep it clear until their plots have been tilled.


Tilling is NOT possible for raised beds. Gardeners at HARRISON, DENFELD FOOD FOREST, ROOFTOP and GARY NEW DULUTH should not register for tilling.