That’s what more and more farmers are doing. Research and experience indicates that tilling the same soil year after year can do more harm than good because you can destroy the very things that make soil healthy—beneficial soil microbes, insects, fungi, earthworms and soil aggregates (clumps of soil held together by organic matter). It also unearths dormant weed seeds, which encourages them to germinate.
Home gardeners can reap the same benefits by not tilling.
There are several ways to experiment with it, but one of the easiest is to add organic matter to the top of existing beds rather than tilling or digging it in. Simply spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost, mulched leaves, grass clippings or even kitchen scraps on top of the soil in spring or fall. Before long, earthworms and other organisms will incorporate those amendments into the soil for you, boosting nutrients and improving soil health.
You might still want to till, however, when starting new beds, to loosen the soil and add large quantities of amendments. But the next year, adopt the no-till method, and you’ll soon notice benefits like better drainage, fewer weeds, healthier plants and, of course, less back pain. To learn more, visit tinyurl.com/no-till-gardening.