Since planting the raspberries at the north end of the to-be garden, I started working my way south.
Cardboard & Landscape Fabric
My 2012 planting plan called for ‘Waltham Butternut’ squash and ‘Small Sugar’ pumpkins in a 4’ row between the raspberries and the strawberries. As it was pretty clear that I wouldn’t be able to dig and remove all the weeds from the area, I covered it with cardboard and then with landscape fabric. Ideally I’d get some compost and plant then squash/pumpkins in hills.
Thinking that the garden expansion would be fairly straightforward, and not realizing how much ground I would lose to the weeds over the winter, I ordered 150 strawberry plants. After planting 25 in the front I knew I’d need to make a somewhat weed free spot for them in the vegetable garden. So started a sheet mulch bed this weekend. I planted about half the strawberries in the pouring rain on Tuesday and did more sheet mulching on Wednesday.
Then I figured that I would give the tiller another shot since the soil seemed to be at about the perfect moisture level and I had mowed the weeds down over the weekend. I hauled the beast out of the garage on Wednesday afternoon. When I got it out to the garden (which must be about 300’ from the garage!) I noticed that the left hand tines were not engaging. I tried to till with only one side engaging and broke two shear bolts. Replacing the bolts is super awkward and I bought a ratcheting wrench to try and make things simpler this year. For whatever reason it seems to have started to ratchet backwards at times and starts to undo the lock nut rather than screwing it on! Arg. (I’ve never used a ratcheting wrench before… if you know something I’m missing, please let me know.)
This is the third spring I’ve tried to use this tiller to break ground and prepare garden soil and I am not happy. It’s from Sears, who supposedly guarantee satisfaction. I’ve never had a product like this from them before: it just doesn’t perform as advertised. I told the sales person where and how I was going to be using this product clearly indicating that I was going to be tilling old pasture, weedy perennial areas, and I live in Glengarry, which means rocks. This tiller does not deal well with my soil. If it hits a rock (which I do my darnedest to remove prior to tilling, but are still really common) the shear bolt breaks. The shear bolt is in such an award spot it takes like 5 minutes to replace. It also doesn’t really break the soil up that well even after multiple passes. The gear shift is trash and it is really difficult to shift and get it in gear. Plus the handle, which is supposed to be adjustable doesn’t stay up and slips down which means that I wind up tilling hunched over (and I’m not that tall!) I have a service plan with this machine and last year the technician said that it is basically supposed to be a sub-par piece of equipment. My issue is that this wasn’t specified when I purchased it. I thought I was getting a tough tool capable of easily breaking ground and decently user-friendly.
The technician made some adjustments last spring and I tried to persevere but I didn’t get much use out of the tiller. It seems that I spend more time fussing with it than I do tilling.
Again this spring I’ve tried on at least three occasions and three times I’ve had to do the work by hand. On Wednesday I phoned Sears and asked if there was anything they could do based on the tiller not performing as advertised, and my history as a good Sears customer. Turns out not so much. To top it all off, they don’t have a service technician in this area until next Wednesday. Making the tiller pretty much a bust for this year! In the past Sears has always made it right when I had a problem with a major purchase. I finally got the number for Craftsman out of the Sears rep (“Well you could try contacting the manufacturer.”) so I will try calling them when I get the chance, but I am beyond disappointed with Sears. To me Craftsman = Sears and they ought to make sure that what they sell is decent and that the consumer is informed that it is a product which apparently designed to not be very good despite costing a pretty penny.
Anyone have sandy soil and want to buy a rear-tine tiller?
[Okay, enough ranting about trashy tiller.]
Thursday I got up at 5 am to beat the heat and dig by hand. I worked at turning the soil, breaking up the chunks with a hoe, and raking weeds out. By about noon I only had enough energy to just turn the soil and I called it a day for the heavy work as my thermometer indicated we’d hit 30 (86F). Plus it was humid which makes it feel even hotter. It is only May and it is super hot. Apparently we don’t really get to have spring anymore.
I couldn’t bear to work outdoors today so I’m taking some time to catch up on indoor tasks and thinking about how to fit everything I need to plant for the CSA into a smaller garden space. So far I haven’t found a magic solution.
Lettuce 'Yankee Salad Mix' Harvesting