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Should the soil be turned upside down when cultivating?

For example, this machine will turn the soil upside down. I've heard from my relative that you shouldn't do that because it severely disrupts the microorganisms. Some prefer to be closer to the top, others lower or something like that. Instead you should just "flip" the soil so that portions of it remain at the same height.

What do you think about this?

  • absolutely not, you should only crimp the grass already there: youtube.com/watch?v=9uMPuF5oCPA – black thumb Jun 11 '17 at 14:45
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    Thanks. This was nice to see. We don't have such issues where I live, since here is mostly everything covered (with crops). But admittedly, I have a hard time believing everything he says. No fertlizer farming (even with cows and stuff) seems impossible to me. You take out nutrients (P, K, Ca, Mg..), and you must give it back. – sanjihan Jun 12 '17 at 13:37
  • Here's the solution for you: youtube.com/watch?v=nWXCLVCJWTU – black thumb Jun 13 '17 at 3:17
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"Turning soil upside down" is ploughing (plowing) with the machine with same name. The machine in the photo is used to destroy the clump of dirt (and with a light mix of dirt).

So there are two different machines. Ploughing is useful for new fields and for fields with "green manure". The green will be put on the botto, so it will create manure. But such huge change of soil is dangerous if there is not many inches of organic soil: you put on top the mineral part and on bottom (not reachable by vegetable roots) the good organic part.

"Your" cultivator requires a already prepared garden. It is ok if you cultivated it the previous year. It also requires not much green on top: read: remove as much weeds as possible.

For microorganisms: I'm not so sure. Vegetable gardens are not so huge, so there is many boundary effects, and we does't use it on all vegetable garden: some part are seeded in fall, some in different part of late winter and spring, so I don't see a huge disruption. Additionally, manure will also change the microorganisms (pH, a lot of new organisms).

Personally I find some disruption good. Many diseases are specific to species (and genus) and good organisms are all-arounder (not really so, but I think a good approximation). So disuption will help to kill some unwanted organism, but the other organism can walk in (from the other patches and borders, [containing other genre of vegetables]).

So I use it (a very old machine) or I do it manually.

  • Why not use the Ray Archuletta soil test as the explanation of what you should do? – black thumb Jun 11 '17 at 21:32
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I think this is a philosophical question and you will get different answers based on what different people believe in. My personal experience has been positive when I turned over the soil. I have a few raised beds and one year I turned over the soil and loosened it. That year it had great results since it helps the root system grow and not have to fight the harder soil. In subsequent years, I have been only loosening the top few inches of the soil when mixing in compost and fertilizer and once again, I am happy with the results. I would recommend digging the soil with you hands to see how soft it is. If it is very hard, I would suggest turning over the soil at least once to loosen it and once it is loose, check every year and you may not have to loosen it all the way to the bottom. That will keep the biological system underneath working and left undisturbed.

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