My friend Michele, and I decided last year to partner in a CSA garden. We would use non-GMO and heirloom seeds, as well as organic practices. We both have small gardens (50×50) and felt we should limit the CSA garden partners to 8, since this was our first year. Eight doesn’t sound like a lot, but we still worried that we would have a weekly supply for each. Succession planting as well as planting at different times from each other, was a way to have a steady supply, and not too much of one vegetable.
Our CSA cost each partner $300.00 which was to start the end of May, and run through the end of August. This averaged out to about 22.00 a week of a variety of fresh produce. Each partner paid a $100.00 initial fee the end of March with the remainder due the end of April.
I hadn’t had a garden for a couple of years, so I had to hire someone with a tractor to turn the garden over. My husband used our large tiller to plow each row, and I built it up to resemble a raised bed.
Planting started the last of February, with carrot, lettuce, and radish seeds planted. The first of March, I planted potatoes to harvest as small red potatoes, as well as sugar peas.
Radishes, lettuce, arugula, kale and Swiss chard were also plentiful and did well in the garden. I had never planted a spring garden, and was really happy with the results. Nasturtiums were added to the mix for color.
The end of April, and first couple of weeks of May, we added tomato plants. Purple Cherokee, Brandywine, and a yellow salad tomato were planted along with green beans, squash, (yellow and zucchini), cucumbers, and bell peppers. I planted several eggplant, but won’t do that again. In no time, the eggplant was eaten by a small flea type beetle. An organic insecticidal soap was used daily, but I couldn’t keep them at bay.
The sugar peas came in great in my garden, but after two pickings, we were surprised by 90 degree weather early in the season. Even with frequent watering, the peas dried up, and the lettuce, although still looking great, bolted and turned bitter.
Now that the peas and potatoes are gone, I didn’t want allow that area to go to weed. I needed to plow it under and either add a cover crop or some organic matter.
I’m not able to use the large (huge) tiller we have at the house. I just can’t control it, and can’t even start it. I was having to hand clear weeds and old plants. Not too fun in the heat!
So, you could imagine my surprise and pleasure when the makers of the Mantis tiller offered to not only pay me for trying out their tiller and giving a review, but allowed me to pick my choice, and keep the tiller! I immediately went to their website to pick out the smallest tiller I could find. I wanted to be able to carry, start, and use the tiller by myself. I chose the 2 cycle gas/oil model.
Here’s what I love about the Mantis tiller I received.
Easy to carry: I don’t have a lot of upper body strength. I can carry it easily using the carry handle. It’s not awkward at all, and feels comfortable.
Lightweight: Again, I need something that is not too heavy. The garden is located quite a distance from my garden, and I didn’t want to turn it on and “walk” it to the garden.
Easy to use: I have to admit, I’m not very mechanically inclined. All you had to do was “prime” the oil/gas mixture by pushing down on the clear bubble located near the motor. You could see when the mixture entered the bubble.
Next, just pull the cord to start. Now, I have never been able to start a mower or weed eater, pulling on the start cord. The tiller initially started and then stopped. I just pulled the choke out a little bit, and away it went.
The garden bed was tilled in no time using the 2 cycle Mantis tiller.
I wouldn’t expect this small tiller to turn over a new garden, just as I didn’t expect our large tiller to do that, but it’s going to be invaluable, saving time AND my back when I turn over the beds after they have finished. After tilling this row, I covered it will old duck and chicken litter. After it breaks down some this fall I will till it under with the Mantis tiller.
I wouldn’t put straw with fresh manure around plants. This straw has been drying for about 2 weeks. I placed it on the rows only, to keep weeds down.
Two things I want you to take away from this post.
- You don’t need acres of land to feed your family, or to even provide a small income from your garden. Will I do a CSA next year? I haven’t decided. While I made about 1200.00, with probably 700.00 of that being profit, after plants, seeds, water, fertilizer, row cover, and netting, I probably made about 50 cents an hour. But I have had fun. I have learned a lot, and if I do decide to do it again, I will start earlier, and plant more.
- You don’t need large equipment to have a large home garden. Now that the garden has been turned over with a tractor, and initially plowed with a large tractor, my Mantis tiller will be all I need. Using straw and cover crops will help keep down weeds.
- I would recommend this Mantis tiller to anyone. My honest review is that it is a well made, reasonably priced, great tiller for the garden.
I want to thank Mantis for giving me the opportunity to have one of their tillers.
If you want your own Mantis tiller it is on sale NOW on their website. You can even pay in installments, so now is a good time to head on over.
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+ Disclaimer: I received monetary compensation as well as a tiller, from Mantis, for providing this blog post.