Tilling—the practice of turning over soil in preparation for planting crops— is an integral part of the garden landscape that is a rite of spring (or fall) for many farmers and home gardeners. For the latter, tiling is most often done before planting vegetables; however it can also be done in advance of planting perennial beds and lawns. There are many benefits to tilling: it loosens, aerates and warms the soil. You have to be careful though not to over-till, as too much tilling can lead to soil erosion.
Is Your Garden Soil Dry and Warm Enough for Tilling?
Whenever you decide to till, you must first make sure that the soil is both dry enough and warm enough to till. If you do till soil that is neither dry enough nor warm enough, you may do more harm than good to your garden landscape. To check the soil for dryness, pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it. If the soil comes apart then it is dry enough to till; if it stays in a ball, it is still too wet. To check the temperature of the soil, stick your hand or a finger a few inches in to it— if you can’t keep your hand or a finger in for one minute then the soil is not yet warm enough to till.
Garden Tilling in the Spring and Fall
When to till is largely a matter of personal preference as well as climate. Some gardeners prefer to till in autumn as this is a time of the year when the weather is often cool and dry. Tilling in fall also allows the soil to settle prior to spring planting. Finally, fall is the best time for tilling cool weather crops, such as lettuce and cabbage since early spring (when you plant these crops) soil is usually too cold and wet to till. Other gardeners would rather till in spring, which is a good time to till well-established gardens that do not need a lot of amendments such as fertilizers.
Preparing the Soil for a Healthy Garden Landscape
We would also suggest that you use a soil test kit prior to tilling our garden. Such test kits are inexpensive and can be found at most home and garden stores. The findings of the soil test kits will help you to know what kind of soil amendments you need to add. Possible soil amendments may include mulch, lime, peat moss and organic fertilizer. These amendments are also relatively cheap and easy to find – you may even have some of them, like mulch, in your own yard – and can be a huge boon to the health of your soil.
Before tilling, you will want to spread whatever amendments you decide to use on top of your soil and then knead it in to the soil with the roto tiller. You will normally want to loosen the soil down to about six to eight inches in order to give your plants just enough space to spread their roots. Adding the right amount of amendment and working it in with your tiller is can go a long way to building a healthy garden landscape. Many gardening experts also suggest that adding any organic material, such as mulch and peat moss, can really build a robust and healthy garden.
Some gardeners are concerned when using a rototiller for the first time, as they can seem to be horsepower-driven beasts that can be hard to control. But when you have tiller like Orec’s GardenQuake, you can keep that control with no problem. The GardenQuake has a differential lock that lets you lock the axle in place while tilling, so that the machine will drive straight ahead, making it much easier for you to control. With just a flip of a lever, you can disengage the differential lock, making the GardenQuake easy to turn for your next row.