rototilling

Rototilling the Garden- How to Prepare Your Soil

Preparing your soil for a garden is a difficult task. There are many things that need to be done to your soil so that it can yield a fruitful garden. Most people agree that fertilizing your garden is a great way to prepare your soil for a garden. However, there is some disagreement about whether or not rototilling is the best way to prepare your soil for a garden. Some people are all for rototilling and never miss a single year of doing it. Others believe that it does more harm than good and try to use gentler methods to prepare their soil. Here’s all you need to know about rototilling your garden and how to prepare your soil. 

What Is Rototilling? 

First, let’s go over what exactly rototilling is. Rototilling is a way to churn soil to break up hard crusted soil, aerate the soil, and make nutrient and water absorption easier. A rototiller is a large power tool that resembles a lawn mower. It has large blades that cut into the soil to churn it up. It also does a great job at uprooting weeds so that you don’t need to pull them out one by one. It makes a difficult job a lot easier by cutting work time in half. You’d need to churn your soil all by hand without the use of a rototiller. Push or pull the rototiller to churn up your soil. 

rototilling

Image Source: NAPA Know How

Using a Rototiller to Prepare Your Soil for a Garden

There are many advantages of rototilling that will help prepare your soil for a garden. Here are the biggest benefits and advantages of rototilling your soil. 

Fertilizer Distribution

You want to make sure that fertilizer is well distributed so that your garden can be growing well all around. Sometimes fertilizer can be hard to spread and make even. A rototiller will make this job easier. Put fertilizer all over your garden then use your rototiller to mix it all in. This can be compared to making cake batter. When you put flour in a wet mixture you don’t throw that into the oven and hope the cake turns out. You mix in the flour with the entire mixture. This distributes the flour and helps create a wonderful cake. Same thing goes for fertilizer, it needs to be mixed into the soil to help create an abundant garden. It also does a great job mixing in compost, or other organic materials in the Fall. 

Break Up Hard Soil

Plants cannot grow through hard, crusted soil. Soil needs to be light, airy, and soft for plants to easily grow through. Rototilling will break up any hard soil that you have in your garden. This is one of the best ways to prepare your soil for a garden. The blades of the rototiller easily breaks up hard soil and puts more air into the soil. Soft soil helps your garden be able to absorb more water and nutrients. Soft soil is like a sponge, water goes all the way through it. Hard soil can be like marble. Water will stay on top of it and never be absorbed. Fertilizer will also be absorbed better because it can be mixed into soft soil, instead of sitting on the surface. Your garden will have better access to water and nutrients. 

Improve Soil Structure Over Time

Rototilling every year can improve soil structure over time. Initially, rototilling can be a little traumatic for soil but over time it should start to improve by mixing all the layers of your soil. Soon, you won’t have hard soil on top anymore. Instead you’ll have soft soil all year round. However, it might take a couple of years to start seeing this improvement. As the years go by, you won’t have to do as much to prepare your soil for your garden. It’ll already be in good shape for a garden.

rototilling

Image Source: Hunker

Are There Any Disadvantages to Rototilling?

The short answer is yes. However, you’ll need to decide for yourself if the disadvantages will keep you from rototilling your soil. 

Rototilling Can Destroy Plant Roots

Plant roots are delicate and shouldn’t be disturbed while a plant is growing. That’s why it’s important that you don’t rototill your soil after you’ve already planted something. This is a disadvantage of rototilling but it doesn’t have to be. Simply avoid rototilling after you’ve already planted seeds and you won’t have a problem. 

Rototilling Can Destroy Worm Burrows

Worms help aerate soil and give nutrients back naturally. Rototilling can destroy worm burrows and force them to the top of the soil where they will most likely die. A lot of people avoid using a rototiller for this reason. However, since rototilling also aerates the soil and helps with nutrient absorption some people don’t mind that it destroys worm burrows. They think of it as a good trade off. Others feel differently. 

Rototilling in Cold Weather Can Compact Soil

Using a rototiller aerates soil but it doesn’t always. Sometimes using a rototiller to prepare soil can actually compact the soil more. Rototilling in cold weather will actually make your garden soil stick together more and create more hard clumps. This will be more damaging than beneficial. Again, this problem can be avoided by simply waiting until the weather is warm enough to use your rototiller. You’ll need to make sure that you aren’t waiting too far into Fall to rototill. Or that you don’t rototill too early in the Spring. Rototilling in cold weather will make Summer water absorption very difficult. 

Rototilling Can Destroy Soil Structure

Rototilling will improve soil structure over time, but it can destroy soil structure for a season or two. Some people think this is worth it to have improved soil structure in a couple of years, but some people don’t. Using a rototiller too much or too often can close the air gaps underground that plants need to grow. This will inhibit plant growth when you plant your seeds. Try to avoid destroying soil structure by lessening your rototiller use to once or twice a year. You do not need to use your rototiller whenever you see some weeds in your garden. 

Summing Up

There are lots of things that you can do to prepare your soil for a garden. Rototilling is one of them. Use your rototiller to aerate soil, make water and nutrient absorption easier, and mix in fertilizer. Yes, there are disadvantages to rototilling and you’ll need to decide if the benefits outweigh the costs. Lots of people swear by rototilling, claiming that their garden wouldn’t be successful without it. However, there are plenty of people that use their hands or a shovel to mix in fertilizer and aerate their soil and still have lots of success. I’m confident that you’ll have a fruitful garden no matter which decision you make. The important thing is to simply do your best! 

Image Source: Free State Mower

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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