“Plow, and then lightly harrow, but don’t over work the soil”. I threw the disc and tiller away, and got a chisel plow and harrow. My dad’s land was a sandy loan where the disc and tiller aren’t destructive like they are on a clay loam. I learned a little tillage goes a long way. The soil has a life of its own, and when we run over it with equipment and through it with iron, this life suffers. We need to plow gently, slowly, and as little as possible. And we must take care to reinvest in the soil biology. Time is on our side. After I mow the cover crop, I run the chisel plow, also called a re breaker, length wise through the field. The shanks are a foot up ant and dig in about a foot deep. This tillage disturbs the cover crop, but certainly doesn’t kill it. My next chore is spreading compost, which has the life in it. Microbes in the compost feed on the decaying organic matter from the cover crop and in the soil. Then I’m back over the field with the chisel plow, but this time I go crosswise, so now the soil is cut two ways and the cover crop gives up trying to re grow. At this point I have a desire to go over the soil several times, completely pulverizing it and making a fine seed bed. But I have learned not to do this, because I want a garden and not a cement sidewalk. I will be cultivating the soil during summer, and this subsequent tillage will remove grass clumps and clods while the garden crop is growing. It doesn’t need to be done all at once before planting. The third and final pass with the chisel plow happens in a week or two, with a section harrow chained behind. The ground still looks rough afterward, but the cover crop is gone, the compost is incorporated, and it’s ready to make rows and plant. The finer the seed bed, the more of a crust will form, so I try to keep it rough. The life in the soil will soften it up in a way the tractor and tillage equipment can never do. We do make finer seed beds for crops with, tine seeds, such as carrots, lettuce and beets. But these crops get extra compst and much more intensive hoeing and tending. We are constantly breaking up the crust around them. Nature teaches us give and take, moderation, and tender loving care. We have to plow and loosen the soil, but not so much as to lose the precious structure that holds it together. Life in the soil gives us good tilthe, that nice crumbly structure. We can learn nature’s mysterious ways, I just wish sometimes that it didn’t take so long.