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Tilling the soil with a small bolo is part of the conventional gardening practice in my locality, and I have been told repeatedly that I should till the soil regularly around the base of plants to encourage growth. This advice is contrary to what I have read in A Natural Farming System for Sustainable Agriculture in the Tropics where minimal tillage is listed as a fundamental principle. Based on your experience or readings, which practice is more beneficial to plant growth? Thanks in advance!

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Not tilling. Turning or tilling the soil too frequently eventually causes soil structure breakdown, and disturbs the fragile eco system of the life forms within it. After years, soil erosion starts to take place (as in the prairie plains in the States decades ago).

It is, though, necessary to dig or till occasionally, usually in order to grow new plants, or maybe to remove unwanted plant growth, but it is better to leave the soil alone as much as possible, and certainly to add appropriate-for-crop organic origin humus rich material to it whenever possible; applying it as a mulch rather than digging it in also helps to reduce disturbance of the soil profile.

What I've said is about keeping the soil in good condition - we need good soil to grow good plants, but following what's been said here does not necessarily mean your plants will noticeably grow better, its just you'll have better soil for longer.

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