One of the worst things to have happen when tilling a garden is for the tiller to break down. It’s almost as if someone was saying that a garden doesn’t need to be planted that year. What should one do? Just look for another way to finish the job that was started when using the tiller, at least until the tiller can be repaired. The most obvious solution is to finish digging the garden up manually.
Suggestion number one: Wet the ground. In some cases, digging up the dry ground with a shovel or a hoe is a piece of cake. In others, digging in the dry ground could be like trying to break a rock with a plastic fork. Wetting the ground can help. Keep in mind that wetting the ground does not imply soaking the ground. Nobody wants to try digging up mud! Just run a sprinkler for maybe ten minutes and try digging a bit. If it still seems too hard, try a little bit more water. Wetting the ground has another benefit as well. It cuts down on the dust that could blow while digging! If necessary, a simple over the nose and mouth mask can be worn while working outside. Try looking around where tools, such as drills, are in stores like Wal-Mart, Lowe’s or Home Depot, and masks can usually be found there (as they are most often used when using a sander or while painting).
Suggestion number two: Try to clear out as many weeds and grass as possible before digging. A tiller will naturally till all weeds under, but it not likely that a shovel will be able to bury any weeds or grass that deep. Sometimes, using a hoe can help clear out the weeds before using the shovel to dig. Just take that aggression and frustration and go on the attack! To use a hoe to clear weeds is fairly easy. Just lightly hack at the weeds and drag. Then take a rake to help rake up all the weeds to bag and haul out. Just keep in mind that using a hoe will not get rid of the weeds completely, but it will help reduce them a great deal.
Once the remaining parts of the garden are dug, what next? It has been mentioned before that digging or tilling a garden is a two part task. The second part is putting in the compost (such as mushroom compost) or, in some cases, fertilizer. When no tiller is available, this part of the job will also have to be done by hand. The task here is simple. Take the bag of compost or fertilizer and spread it over the area that has already been dug. Take the hoe and begin working the stuff into the dirt. Use a twisting motion to mix it in as much as possible. Another option is to take a solid metal rake to help work the compost, mulch or fertilizer in. Don’t use a rake that would be used to rake leaves. That would not be strong enough. Use the kind of rake that is straight and solid, no flexibility at all. This is also a job that could take a few days to complete, depending on how much that can be done at one time and, of course, the weather.
Digging up or finishing the digging of a garden by hand is definitely a tough business. It can be a daunting task and almost impossible. Don’t give up! Don’t look at it as a job, look at it as an aerobic workout. Winter is over, one no longer needs to hibernate or be a couch potato. Look at it as getting that vitamin D from the sun. Shed that pasty skin and get a little color (just not too much color – use sunscreen when necessary!). Having the tiller break down isn’t the end of the world. People have done fine without them for a long time. Not to mention that doing a little digging in the garden with a shovel and/or a hoe can make keeping those New Year’s resolutions so much easier to stick to.
As always, suggestions are always welcome.