How To Till Your Garden Properly

Early spring is the time to stop just thinking about gardening and actually start to get your garden ready for planting. One of the first jobs that needs to be done, is to till your garden and make sure it’s ready for those new seeds. While gas powered roto tilling equipment makes garden tilling a relatively easy job (compared to doing it by hand and using a spade or fork), even using modern technology there are some tricks to tilling your garden properly. Here’s some thoughts on how to till your garden properly:

Tilling your garden

  • Before you do anything else, test your soil to what if any amendments need to be added. You can get soil test kits at home and garden centers or in some areas the extension division of the state university or college will test your soil for free.
  • The results of the soil testing will tell you what kind of soil you have and what type of amendments you need to add. Soil amendments (lime, mulch, peat moss, organic fertilizer) are inexpensive and easy to get and adding them before tilling your garden will make for luscious growing environment.
  • Spread lime, manure or compost material (whatever the soil test kit said was needed) on top of your soil then work it in with your roto tiller. You want to loosen the soil down about six to eight inches so the plant roots will have lots of soft soil to spread their roots in. Just be careful not to go too deep and bring sub soil up to the surface.
  • You want to till your soil when it’s just moist - not too wet and not too dry. If it’s too moist, it will for clumps and dry into unworkable chunks. If it’s too dry and won’t break up nicely and be difficult to work. A good way to tell if your soil is the right consistency is to pick up a handful and squeeze it - if it crumbles it’s ready for tilling.
  • Don’t spread any chemical fertilizers on your garden when you’re doing the first tilling – wait until just before you plant to work fertilizers into the soil.
  • Use your roto tiller to go over your garden in an up and down pattern, then walk over the entire area picking up any roots or underground vegetation the tilling brought to the surface. Next, go back over your garden again, this time working from side to side to ensure the soil is nicely broken up and ready for planting.
  • Finish tilling your garden by raking the surface smooth and flat.

Some thoughts on garden soil

  • The best time to condition (or recondition) your garden soil is in the spring after the frost has left the ground and before the growing season begins.
  • Whether your soil is high in clay or sandy in nature, adding organic material should improve it. Clay soil compacts and doesn’t drain well, while sandy soil drains all too rapidly because of its loose structure.
  • Gardening experts say you probably can’t add too much organic material to any type of soil and the higher the organic content, the easier it is to prepare a smooth planting surface. Adding a four to six inch layer of organic material like shredded leaves, mulch, peat moss or decomposing plant material to your soil then working it in, will transform your garden soil into a rich, dark loam.

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to He can be contacted at