The weather this weekend was absolutely gorgeous, and perfect for working in the garden. Japheth came over to help, and was setting out my lettuce and broccoli seedlings and planting cauliflower in the raised beds while I tilled up new ground for planting peas. Our tiller is one of the walk-behind type, and I have named it “the beast”. It is fairly powerful, and can till up even the hardest compacted clay soil (which is what we have). However, using it takes some muscles, a certain amount of determination, and a little common sense.
Starting the tiller isn’t too bad. Once it’s started the first time each season, it starts reliably after that all season long. The fun starts when I actually begin tearing up new ground. I walked the tiller over to the plot of ground that we had plowed and disked the weekend before, which was now a sea of hard clay clumps the size of baseballs. I put the tiller in gear, and it immediately bucked and ran about 10 feet down the row with me racing along behind. Then I remembered to let go of the handles and it stopped, growling menacingly as if daring me to try again. That’s where the determination comes in. Not willing to let the beast win, I backed it up to the beginning of the row again, planted my feet, leaned back, and put it in gear again. That’s where the muscles come in. This time, I was able to get about 5 feet tilled before it bucked and ran away again. I continued like this over and over again until I had made one pass over the whole pea patch.
Common sense would have helped, if I had any. I finally realized that there was a tilling depth adjustment, and it was set at the deepest setting. I changed the tilling depth to the shallowest setting, and was able to make another pass around the entire pea patch with the beast only bucking once or twice. Another notch deeper, another round. Another notch deeper, another round. And so on, until I had made what felt like was 20 rounds around the pea patch, but was probably only four or five. Now the clay lumps are about the size of marbles. By this time I had been tilling this single pea patch all morning long. Japheth had planted all the lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, and I still didn’t have soil that seemed fine enough to plant in.
We took a break for lunch, attached the auger to the tractor and planted three new fruit trees and a few windbreak trees. Then I broke open six bales of peat moss and spread them over the pea patch. Martin came to my rescue and ran the beast, incorporating the peat moss into the clay-marbles while Japheth and I mounded up the rows for the peas. By 5:00 we finally had the peas planted.
Martin had asked me on Friday if I wanted to rent the small tractor and tiller from Waters Hardware so we could get the tilling done fast. At over $300, I had said no, let’s try it with our own tiller. Next time I think I’ll say yes.
All in all, although it took WAY TOO LONG to till the pea patch, between the three of us we got a lot done anyway – six trees planted, and all the lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and peas. And, we got to spend all weekend outdoors in the great weather!
Keep your sunny side up,