That leaves the rototiller. You may have noticed by now my preference for the trusty tiller. That's because of my large-sized garden! The old Troy-Bilt tiller ads were funny, but true. Now, they've gone into making front-tine tillers and even little ha-ha machines they call (as I recall) mini-tillers. Don't be fooled by the name of this august manufacturer on these things! A REAR-TINE tiller is the only way to go if you are serious. They are easy to control, even when you do have to use 2 hands (One-hand guidance works when the sod is gone from prior tilling, if it's not, have that other hand ready!)
I have a 7hp Troy-Bilt Horse. It's a great machine, once you get the hang of it (that took about 3 serious uses). The manual will make it seem like a lot of work to maintain. This is malarkey aimed at Macho Men who don't want it to be seen as easy. There are a couple of points to watch: A bolt on the shift lever gets loose. I lost mine and ended up using the adjustment tool that came with it as a bolt, it's long and *just* the right width! The machine works fine this way, but when I need to adjust the belt (that's easy, but kind of a pain) I also need to find something else to use as a bolt! Someday, I'll get a real one...
Except for that, you probably will NOT need to check everything every 2 seconds. They recommend all sorts of stuff, I can't speak for everyone but most of it seems to be to please the same kind of guy who spends every weekend tinkering under the hood of his car. I want to GARDEN!
Tilling is tilling no matter if it's a mid-sized or a large garden. Hitting it once (at the slowest speed) and then again in two weeks does wonders for getting rid of the weeds. At first it took 4 hours to till the size of one lot, but now that I've got the hang of it it's down to 2 and a half. Turning the Horse has never been quite as easy as they say--you will need to apply some muscle to get a tight turning radius out of it. Other than that it's fairly easy.
If you have a giant amount of space, you might want to hire it done or even look for a tractor with a plow. I have no personal experience with these, but I have seen them in operation and know that they vary in quality. Be prepared to spend some $$$ if you want a decent tractor. (The ones I'm talking about are fairly big lawn tractors which can pull a plow, mower attachment, lawn trailer, etc.) The plows on the cheaper ones don't seem to go too far into the earth. If you have a farm-sized plot, you will probably need a *real* farm tractor to go with it!!!
ORGANIC MATTER will be hard to find--REAL hard to find--in enough quantity for this size of land. You will probably need to buy some to bring a new plot up to standard if it isn't there already. I'm talking truckloads! Once spread out, (get some teenagers to help you if you aren't an Olympian) that huge-looking amount will only amount to a couple of inches depth. Till/plow it in. If you have any mounds left in the garden, you are probably stuck raking them smooth. If you know a better way to smooth it out please e-mail me!
Commercial fertilizer comes in handy here even though it does nothing for the texture of the dirt. I always put down a good layer of Milorganite for good measure. Milorganite is human waste from the Milwaukee Sewer District!!! No Lie!
I grow flowers, which I'm not eating, so it doesn't bother me. It's just animal waste from the highest species of animals on Earth, in my opinion.
If that's too gross for you, there are plenty of other commercial concoctions, some organic and some inorganic. Organic fertilizers in general take longer to start working, but work longer. Inorganic fertilizers, in general, work really quick but will stop working faster. They also tend to stop working suddenly.
With a large amount of land, there is a greater potential for environmental damage. It is said that most homeowners apply more fertilizer/chemical, per square foot, than a farm. This tendency, multiplied by a large piece of land, can really add up when it comes to the effects on wildlife and lakes. Around here we have a lot of lakes, which are threatened by fertilizer runoff. The runoff encourages lake weeds to grow which fill them in. PLEASE be careful in applying anything-natural or not-on your large plot! The wildlife will thank you and so will the humans!
As a general principle, it's good to leave a border of grass or even weeds around your plot. This will help keep what's on your land, ON your land instead of running off. This includes Preen, fertilizer, and, of course, THE DIRT you have worked so hard to improve!
There are 2 choices:
1.) Spend your life on your knees.
There really isn't a way around it on land this big. Without Preen, you either have no life or you have weeds. Tilling gets rid of the weeds. Preen keeps them gone. It's a pre-emergent herbicide. Use it according to label directions, and there should be no problems with the wildlife.
With a large plot, you will probably want to plant at least *some* seeds. PREEN KILLS SEEDS!!! Or jams them from growing until microbial activity breaks the Preen down. Most seeds will be killed! Therefore, you will be stuck weeding until the plants are big enough to tolerate the chemical about 1 and a half to 2 months later. You can get out there every 3 days or every week weeding, or you can do it all over the course of a few days when the plants are bigger like I do.
If you do it like I do, you will have a BIG JOB if most of your planting is from seeds!!! I have planted a large area in bulbs which means I can just PREEN AWAY in that area! Also, I have taken to buying quite a few plants that are already mature. This also lets me PREEN AWAY without weeds ever getting a chance!
Keeping these things in mind, you should do well with your large garden. What to plant is up to you, the general conditions of the property, (sunny, shady, part-shade, how wet does it stay) and your climate. Happy gardening!
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