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Garth Brown |

I'm getting ready to go in the garden even though it was only 13 degrees this morning and the forecast still calls for temps nearer February's average

I till most of my garden. I'm open to the idea of no-tilling, and plan to trial a no-till section of the garden this year. I get good results with tillage - incorporating soil amendments is important, especially with rock phosphate. Phosphorus is not very mobile in the soil, so it needs to be dispersed through the profile where the feeder roots will grow. Surface application could take years or decades to work its way down. Most other minerals I spread are more soluable, but even they could require months to take full effect if sprinkled and not stirred. Now that I've been on this particular spot for a number of years my soil mineral levels are close to where they ought to be for maximum produce quality. I'll still add stuff, but the amounts will be lower and less critical that they disperse rapidly through the whole rooting zone.

My tool of choice for tilling is a shovel. Last year I used a walk behind tiller to break a bunch of sod, but I don't particularly enjoy wrestling a heavy machine and breathing fumes. Now that the garden beds are established its easy enough to keep them that way.

Most shovels are "stamped" by some sort of big press. The gauge of metal used in stamped units is fairly thin. Over the years all shovels lose thickness from the abrasive action of the dirt they move. I do have one forged shovel and its head is thick enough it is still going to be strong and useful when I'm no longer in the picture. I know for sure I'm going to outlast all the stamped shovels I currently have kicking around here.

Another thing about shovels - they work better when they're sharp. I like to put mine in a vise and then go at it with a mill file. I can get a reasonably sharp edge in a minute or two, and it makes the digging so much more pleasant. I sharpen mostly on the convex face of D shovels and only throw a few file strokes on the back to remove burrs. I don't know of any logical reason for this practice except that I like the way they cut better if the bevel is in the scoop rather than outside it.

One thing about the photo at the top. I aspire to clean my tools before I put them away... obviously I didn't with a couple of the shovels on the wall there. Ergh.


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