If you want the best results you need to know when to till your garden. But before we even get to the question of when the best time to till is let’s first take on another important question. Should you even till your garden? Is tilling really necessary. Or even more importantly, can tilling do any harm? Let’s get into it.
Should I Till My Garden?
To till, or not to till. That is the question. There’s a time and a place for everything. If your soil is hard and dry you might need to till it. Also, if you leave your vegetable patch open and uncovered during winter it can get really packed down and compact. In that case it’s going to be way easier to get a really good tiller in there and churn it up.
It’s going to be way easier than trying to drive a fork into that hard ground. It’s not going to do the soil any harm and, let’s face it, you’ve got better things to do than sweating over a patch of really hard ground. Just get it tilled, let the soil sit for a while, let the weeds germinate and maybe weed it a bit before planting your next crop.
There are times when you don’t want to till though. If you garden had some winter crops in them and they were covered during winter then the soil probably isn’t nearly as compact. It’ll be nicely composted with plenty of bugs in it and you’ll easily be able to get a fork into it. There’s two very good reasons why you don’t want to till this ground. Firstly, you don’t need to. It’s not going to be that difficult to work through with a fork. And secondly, if you want to plant anything in that soil in the near future you don’t want to be tilling up new weed seeds. You just want to use a fork and work through the top layer of the soil.
If you’re going to till, just make sure you don’t over till. You don’t want to turn your soil into powder. Go over it with the tiller but try to maintain as much of the structure without releasing all the moisture. Once you’ve gone over it with the tiller, keep adding organic amendments and you’ll probably be able to get away with not needing to till the ground again.
So When Should I Till?
Besides the season, the moisture content of your soil will tell you if it’s the best time to till or not. You want it not to be too dry or too wet. How can you tell? The soil is too dry to till if it doesn’t clump at all when you compact it in your hands. If it clumps up easily and doesn’t break apart if you drop the ball of soil then it’s too wet to till. If it clumps up in your hands and breaks when you drop it to the ground then the moisture content is ideal for tilling.
If you’re planting crops that you want to start growing in Spring then you’ll need to get your ground prepped early. You want to wait until the soil warms up a little though. It needs to get up to around 60 degrees F before you set your tiller loose on it. Normally this is going to be in early Springtime.
If you’re growing early crops then you may want to till the ground in the fall just after you remove the last crops from the ground.
If you can avoid tilling your ground then your soil quality will probably be better off. If the ground is really hard and compact then the reality is that you’ll need to get in there with some equipment other than your fork. If you can get your hands on the best rear tine tiller that matches your budget then the job’s going to be a whole lot easier. Just make sure that you get your timing right and remember not to get carried away by over tilling the ground.