Garden tilling can be done by hand or machine. The purpose for tilling is to improve soil structure and prepare it for planting.
Cultivating is concentrated where most plant roots grow naturally in the top 8 inches (up to 20 cm) of soil. Do only what is necessary because
it is possible to over-till resulting in:
2) The best time to till is in the fall -
3) Soil moisture is important.
If tilling soil in spring place hand in a patch of soggy soil. if it is too cold to keep hand in soil for one minute it is too soon to till. If soil temperature is warm enough, test to see if soil forms a ball. If a ball easily forms, garden tilling will be difficult because soil is compacted. Wait until soil gets a little dryer when the ball falls apart.
Manual tilling can be strenuous. Consider what is best for one's health.
1) Manually Turning Soil
This most common method of garden tilling where one simply starts digging and mixing soil around. Remove weeds and rocks. Place fertilizer, manure and/or soil amendment in soil then continue to stir this in. Manually turn soil on an irregular basis, or only when necessary. To do this routinely could harm roots of wanted plants and stunt their growth.
2) Deep/Single Digging Soil
Before starting know soil pH. There are many soil testing methods available. Deep digging will completely turn the soil over, removing the first layer and break it up.
3) Trench/Double Digging Soil
As with single digging, testing soil pH is important. This method will require pH testing a few times. I have read many publications and there are different definitions along with different methods of double digging. Manually this is physically strenuous so many people opt for garden tillers. With regards to the health of your soil, many experts feel this is more damaging than it is good.
Soil is alive and rototilling has been proven to break down organic matter, micro-organisms, necessary fungus that promotes soil structure, water and other soil life like worms. With exception, for most gardeners this probably isn't necessary. Consider this if working on a raised garden bed of about 12 inches.
If opting for this method when cultivating soil it is important to note with this method the sub-soil shouldn't be brought to the surface, therefore don't dig in shallow soils.
I have not needed to double dig and therefore highly recommend gardener's do their own homework regarding this method. Bits of information I did read and think are good ideas:
After opting for this method the soil needs to have plenty of time to settle. Wait at least four weeks, six is better, before planting.
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