The No-Roto-Till Garden

by Sheryl Simons

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Don't fall for the "We can't have a garden, we don't own a roto-tiller" mentality. Yes, you can! Roto-tillers do make it simple to get a garden started, but they may not be the best way. Even if you use a roto-tiller, you should remove the grass and weeds before tilling or you will be overwhelmed with weeds. Roto-tillers don't kill weeds. They just chop them up and spread them around.

So, if you would like a flower or veggie garden, read on. It's not that hard.

Step 1 - Decide where your garden will be depending on what you want to grow. Vegetables want sun. If you have a shaded area near a porch that you want to put some flowers, you will have to pick shady flowers.

Step 2 - Let's say you have eight tomato plants you want to plant. You may do them all in a row, or in rows. This will be your next year's garden. Mow the grass where the garden will be. Dig holes in the yard at least a foot deep and a foot wide and as far apart as the little tag says (from 24-36 inches), removing the soil from the holes. Mix some good compost into the loose soil where each plant will be. Mark the holes for the plants.

Step 3 - Cover the rows with black plastic, tucking the edges of plastic into the sod so that it will not blow away.

Step 4 - When all danger of frost is past, water the hole well (this encourages deeper root growth) and plant your tomatoes through small slits you have cut in the plastic. Weigh down the plastic with a small amount of dirt or small rocks around each plant. Black plastic is actually good for tomatoes, virtually eliminating blossom end rot by keeping soil evenly moist and not letting tomatoes touch the dirt. Don't cut the slits any larger than necessary, as you don't want to give the weeds any room to grow. Water well. Fertilize weekly.

Step 5 - Harvest when ready. You may remove the plastic in the fall. Remove any weeds that might have slipped in, but the plastic should have smothered all the grass and weeds. Now you may roto-till and add compost or leave the plastic until the next spring and do it then.

Can there be an easier garden? Next year, you may want to make it even bigger! No roto-tiller needed!

Sheryl Simons loves gardening where she lives in Northern Michigan. She writes a weekly on-line column "The Simple Life." You can visit her web site

Take the Next Step:

  • Gardening on the cheap is simple. Just visit the TDS Frugal Gardening Guide and we'll show you the many ways frugal gardeners maintain beautiful, bountiful gardens for less.

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