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Don’t have a tiller or cultivator? No problem!

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Effective No-till method

You don’t need a bunch of fancy tools to start gardening. I started with only a shovel and garden rake.

Is it more work? No, it's actually a little easier. If you do not own a tiller but you are determined to garden and break that soil, I can show you how to do it without a tiller.

I know I harp on this a lot but SAVE THAT CARDBOARD! Cardboard is the number one way I use to kill grass and weeds before planting or when choosing a new plot area. The less ink and printing on that cardboard the better. Cardboard is also a great addition to your compost in the form of carbon, the brown materials we use. It breaks down a lot faster if it doesn't have that waxy overcoat or printed film.

I typically wait a few weeks right before planting season to layout my cardboard. I hold it down using rocks from my plot borders to keep the wind from sharing it with my neighbors. Then I heavily water the cardboard to weigh it down even further, and it helps to suffocate what's underneath which is the grass we want to eliminate. I only water this area once per week if there is no rain to keep the cardboard wet and heavy.

After a couple of weeks, you will start to notice that the cardboard is breaking down and decomposing. You will also notice underneath that almost everything has died. You have two choices at this point. One, you can remove the cardboard, add it to your compost pile and move on to planting. Second, you can leave the cardboard in place as an added weed barrier, and just cut open spots where you want to plant. I mostly go with the second method. Especially for a brand new plot, I'm working up. I do this because with it being a new plot, I know there will still be grass seeds and weeds that come back if I removed the cardboard. In my experience, it takes a couple of grow seasons before you can almost eliminate grass or weeds from growing in your garden, and even then you may still see them pop up after a good rainstorm. I can say that using this method has literally saved my back, and has cut way back on time spent weeding my garden weekly.

Below is where I used a roll of cardboard packing paper I found for $3 at my local Wal-Mart, held down with just a few river rocks.

Once you’ve chosen your method, and have planted, watch to see what happens. Your seeds will sprout and have the ability to take off in growth. You’ve eliminated other oxygen, and nutrient draining weeds/grass around your plant by using this cardboard. You’ve added more carbon material to the soil, and you’ve saved yourself a lot of sweat and hard work. You know what I mean if you've ever used a tiller before. I'm a small-framed person(5’3 126lbs). A tiller beats the ever-loving crap out of my little body and arms. By the time I am done operating one I feel like I have ran in a marathon. I am not against them nor do I hate them. I just realize that many people are like me and can’t afford to buy one, many cant operate it by themselves, and many do not know how to maintain the mechanics of one. I wanted to be able to offer those people solutions. Try out this cardboard no-till method and show me your results in the comments. If you have another no-till method, please do share it. There is no one way to garden. This is just what works for me and has worked for me for years.