So many pit themselves against nature imagining that everything is a battle against the enemy that does all in its seemingly considerable power of climate, altitude and soil to make their lives as hard as possible to grow their food.

Living in the midst of a growing community for the past decade I have watched the pitched battle against the ground in particular where nothing is allowed to grow in the sacred soil of the orchard or vineyard and the plough reigns as king.

Certainly there was the occasion when the much used plough tried to get its own back when our neighbour changed plough for harrow, leant the plough against the farmyard wall which promptly fell on top of him and his wife. He managed to escape but his wife was speared to the ground.

Their close neighbour came calling for me but I was away so Eugene ran to see if he could help. In the end their sons arrived with the ambulance and the medics took over. The injury was horrendous, she survived but the anguish took much longer to recover from!

So one battle lost to the wicked plough but in the end the loser was the ground which over the years has been plough and ploughed and ploughed again until it is virtually nothing but dry dust crying out for water, nourishment and life, and this year we saw for the first time twisters in the fields beginning to form with the dust rising in spirals over our heads. A sign of things to come!

Although I garden alongside them in a much smaller way with possibly a tenth of their trees, I have always believed in the practice of till once, drip feeding water and then mulch, mulch, mulch!

I have no idea if they have noticed my method, but in all those ten years they have ploughed firstly in the dry method, then latterly with a dribble of water at twilight and then only in the last year we were treated to the not exactly sweet smell as they purchased bulk loads and spread pig manure over the land!

Ours is quite a parcel of land to cover on foot so I purchased a tractor mower which is a bit like a quad bike and the greatest fun to drive over what was a ploughed field when we arrived, which I hand raked as flat as possible but still provides a ride like a bucking bronco!

The cuttings were dumped along the edges of the plot and soon changed from cutting to compost which I spread under all of our fruit, nut and olive trees, giving a better and better harvest each year.

One year leaving everything fallow and watching the fantastic range of wild flowers emerge from a seemingly dried out dead soil, into almost an English meadow then mowing patterns of paths through the wild fennel in other years, was such great fun.

This is my joy! Working and playing with nature who is only too willing to grant us such visions of beauty and bounty if we are only also willing to work with her and not against her.

One of the things we intend to do when we move is, with aging backs, to try our hand at tank gardening, raising the growing surfaces to about 2’ 4” or 70 cms from the ground, but going back to the method used by the Incas which it has only recently been found to be so beneficial in increasing the harvest of just about everything by the use of charcoal to hold nutrients in the soil rather than being washed away by the rain. Hydroponics we’ve decided is not our thing, but raising the beds sound like a good idea, but still mulching as we go!

At our first home in Spain there were many cherry orchards and to keep the birds away at ripening time they fired a cannon at regular intervals to frighten the flocks away. I always hoped they would come up with a kinder method but it seems to be a common practice throughout the country. Even in town centres like Girona close to Barcelona they fire cannons in the evenings as the starlings try to roost in the trees which line the main square.

But I say again One Till and then no Tilling only mulching, always working with nature allowing the symbiotic relationships and the natural balance of subterranean creatures to generate a soil that is alive and kicking and providing!
With Love, David the Gardener with Hanukah & the Angel.


About David

Devonian writer
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2 Responses to To TILL or NOT to TILL

  1. Sounds like you have the better system since you quite sensibly are working with nature instead of against it. Better to let it do the hard work while you reap the benefits. I do hope your neighbors wife recovers completely, however, as I don’t like to see anyone hurt for any reason, and certainly not as an object lesson which could have been learned in any number of other ways. Have a great day.


    • David says:

      All recovered now David, at least outwardly, everything in the garden is lovely … you have a great day too and many thanks for your comment. Love, David


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