The (Un)Resolution of Soil Tilling

04/11/2011 at 2:21 pm 1 comment

Three of 17 chicks. I’ll make them a tractor and put them to work building soil.

Every beat of your heart is powered by energy from the sun captured by the soil. – James R. Cassidy

“Maybe think about getting a plot in town. At least for some things.”


“You could do some container gardening. Or look into raised beds, but that will also limit what you can grow.”


“There’s a reason people farm in the valley, not up in the hills.”


“Alright. I don’t know what’s going to work. But try a little of everything. Till part of your space, hand dig part then rake it out, lay compost over the top of your soil and plant straight into that in another section. If this is an experiment, than experiment.”

The above is from my conversation with James Cassidy, OSU’s most famous rock star turned soil scientist, in reference to my concerns over my soil quality and whether or not to till my (eventual) garden space.

During the course of our talk, I learned that I have problem soil. A Jory, it’s mostly made up a dark red silty clay loam, and while it would probably be good for making pottery and art, it’s not great for growing vegetables. It can require large amounts of organic matter and love, which often has to be trucked in.

Here’s James, again, “You’re likely dealing with highly weathered, very acidic soils. Your nutrients have been moving down hill into the valley with the rains for thousands of years. Tillage is necessary; you have to do something. But with a clay soil you can easily create more damage than benefit.”

It’s bad news, but I’m not giving up.

I’m going to take James’ advice to try a little of everything. Tonight I’ll turn over large shovelfuls of earth. When it stops raining and dries up, I’ll till a bit. I’ll mix in compost to elevate my cation exchange capacity, making my soil more attractive and sticky to the nutrients I fold into it.  I’ll build a few raised beds, and put a small kitchen container garden in close to the house.

It’s a big job, so I’ve brought in some help (see above).

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Karen Z.  |  04/11/2011 at 4:24 pm

    “organic matter and love, which often has to be trucked in” –
    Sounds like a country song in the making! ~ truck on!


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