Fertile soil is the foundation to any garden project. Vegetable gardens and planting beds need rich, loose, drainable soil to ensure root growth and abundant crops.
Tilling for Best Results
Most vegetable gardens in particular need rich soil to produce crops. These plants only have a few months to bloom and produce. Good soil allows roots to quickly develop and spread, which in turn increases the water and nutrient intake necessary for healthy and productive plants. A tiller or cultivator makes quick work of what could be a strenuous task if done by hand.
Improving the soil is best done in the fall. Tilling in soil amendments at that time allows them to settle in and breakdown over the winter. When spring arrives, the garden is ready for a new crop.
To till your garden under at the end of the season:
1. Cover the area with several inches of organic matter (leaves, compost, rotted manure, etc.)
2. Set the tiller at a medium depth and work your way back and forth over the area.
3. Set the depth lower and till at a right angle to your previous direction.
4. Wait a few days (or even until next spring) then repeat the tilling as before.
Tilling a New Garden
When the soil dries out and warms up in the spring, it can be successfully tilled. If a handful of soil crumbles when you squeeze it, it should be dry enough. Soil needs to reach a temperature of about 60 degrees F before it should be worked.
You can remove sod or not before tilling. Sod worked under in the fall will provide nitrogen to the soil. Tilling sod under in the spring may only cause the grass to resurface as the temperature warms.
Important Things to Remember
For best results, keep these tips in mind:
• Till slowly, let the machine do the work.
• Till to about 6-8 inches deep.
• Do not overwork the soil; this can create a base for soil compaction.
• Do not till clay soil when it is wet. Damp soil will work nicely and is even preferable, but wet soil will clump. These clumps will dry almost rock-hard and be difficult to break up.
• Remove rocks and other debris at they are tilled up to avoid damage to the tines.
• Clean the tines regularly while tilling and after you are finished to remove entangled plant material.
• Do a soil test to determine the amendments needed for your desired crop.