till a garden

How to Till a Garden: The Best Techniques for Success

Tilling is an important step to take if you want a successful garden. Without tilling, the soil in your garden can become hard and packed down without proper aeration. If your garden doesn’t have proper aeration your plants will not be able to grow because the soil will be impenetrable for plant roots. A lot of people think that planting a garden any old place will do the trick, as long as there’s soil something will grow. That’s false! Packed down and hard soil will strangle your plants, and not allow them to grow as they should. This article will teach you how to properly till a garden for ultimate success. 

Preparing the Soil to Be Tilled

Before it’s time to till a garden it’s important to prepare the garden beforehand. This is important because it’ll allow the most nutrients into the soil when you till the garden later. Preparing your garden to be tilled before you till it, will help your garden more than you realize.

till a garden

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Weed and Clear the Garden Spot

Weed and clear your garden spot in the Fall. Clear out any shrubs, weeds, or other plants you don’t want growing in your garden the following Spring. If you’re changing things up from a bulb plant to something different for the upcoming Spring, make sure you get out all the bulbs underground. This way the bulb plants won’t start to grow and interfere with your new garden. 

Put a Layer of Cardboard Down

Again, this should be done in the Fall. After you’ve cleared out a great spot for your garden, put a layer of cardboard over the area. This sounds silly, but it’s a natural weed barrier and will prevent any new weed growth. The cardboard will also decompose and provide your garden with a lot of carbon. It sounds strange but it really works! 

Add a Layer of Compost and Mulch

Put a whole bunch of organic matter, or compost, on top of the cardboard layer. This includes grass clippings, leaves, fruit peels or cores, and other discarded organic matter. You can make your own compost really easily! Instead of wasting all your old produce, put it to good use and feed your garden with it. Then put mulch on top of that. This creates layers and layers of essential nutrients that your garden will love. 

Wet the Layers with a Hose

After you’ve added all the layers to your garden, use a spray hose and wet the layers thoroughly. Adding water will help all the layers decompose, which gives your garden all the amazing nutrients. The layers that you’ve added in the Fall will sit there all Fall and Winter and will be ready to be tilled in the early Spring.

till a garden

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Tilling the Garden

The actual tilling of a garden isn’t hard to do. Especially if you have a tiller. A tiller is very efficient and will get the job done quickly, but you don’t necessarily need one. Tilling by hand is possible, it’ll just take a lot more work.

When to Till

It’s best to till your garden when the soil is dry. Tilling wet soil can mess with the structure of the soil that you’ve worked so hard for. When the weather starts getting warm and the soil is dry to the touch you can begin tilling. The easiest way to tell if the soil is dry enough is to try to make a ball of the soil. If the ball sticks together like a snowball, the soil is too wet. If the ball crumbles apart it’s dry enough. Soil that is too wet will form hard clumps when it is tilled. The time to start tilling is different for a lot of people depending on where you live. Sometimes people start tilling as early as March because it gets fairly warm by then. If you live in a place where it’s still snowing in March, obviously that’s not a great time to be out in the yard doing work. In cooler climates May is usually a good time to start tilling.

How to Till a Garden by Hand

When you till a garden by hand, it’ll take you more time than with a machine. However, some say that tilling by hand is actually better for you garden. Some people think this is because when you till a garden by hand it is less likely to damage the structure of the garden. The double digging method is the best route to take when tilling by hand. To double dig you’ll need to dig a trench the length of your garden. The trench should be about 8-10 inches deep. After you’ve dug the first ditch, dig a second trench right next to the first trench. Use the dirt from the second trench and fill in the first trench with it. Continue with this method until you’ve done the entire space of the garden. When you get to the last trench, use the dirt from the first trench to fill it in. Use a rake to smooth out the soil after you’ve finished digging trenches. 

till a garden

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How to Till a Garden with a Tiller

This strategy will take a lot less time than tilling by hand. You’ll need a tiller machine. There are places you can rent a tilling machine, or you can buy a tiller. If you’re going to be gardening a lot, it might be a good investment. There are many sizes of tiller, choose the best one to fit your needs. If you have a large garden, obviously a larger tiller that covers more ground at a time will benefit you the most. All you need to do is make sure you know how to use the machine properly and work your way across the yard making sure all the compost and organic matter is getting tilled. You may need to break up large clumps of soil by hand. Make sure that there are no rocks in the way of the tiller because it could severely damage the machine.

Summing Up

There are a lot of ways to till a garden, but it’s important to do no matter how you decide to get it done. Your garden will be very successful if you till it, especially if you prepare your garden to be tilled by adding in extra compost and mulch the Fall before you till it in the spring. The soil in your garden will be light, full of air, full of nutrients, and it’ll be ready for whatever you want to plant. If you till a garden using these guidelines, you’ll have a beautiful and lush garden before you know it.

Image Source: Pixabay

Denali Gillen

I am a farmer’s wife living a farmer’s life. I love having wide open spaces and plenty of space to raise a family. Making the most out of outdoor spaces is something I never get tired of!

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