How to Till a Garden Without a Tiller


The condition of your soil is one of the most important aspects to having a productive garden. When you are preparing a space in your yard for a garden, the soil must be tilled to aerate the soil and to mix in amendments. Soil that is compacted will not yield healthy plants. Without the aid of an electric or gas-powered tiller, you are in for a workout. However, with a little sweat, you can manually till the soil and achieve stellar results, perhaps even better than with mechanical tillers.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Garden spade (D-handle)
  • Metal rake
  • Protect your hands with a pair of gardening gloves. This will prevent blisters from forming on your hands during the tilling process.

  • Select a garden location where the soil is neither consistently dry nor wet. Most gardens fare well in moderate to full sunlight with well-drained soil. Determining the pH of the soil is also a strong consideration. Soils that are too acidic or alkaline need either treatment with lime or peat moss to correct the composition.

  • Move to one corner of the area that needs to be tilled and insert the spade 6 to 8 inches down into the soil. Push the handle down to pry up and turn over the soil. Repeat this process all the way around the perimeter of the garden. Once you have made it around the perimeter, continue circling in to the center of the area so you can avoid stepping on the already tilled soil.

  • Remove large rocks and tree roots from the soil by hand.

  • Rake over the soil to spread it evenly and catch any medium-sized rocks that are left. Rake these rocks into a pile, then remove them from the soil.

  • Break apart large clumps of soil with the head of the rake and integrate them into the garden.

  • Till any spots that have been compacted to complete the process.


  • "The Everything Lawn Care Book: From Seed to Soil, Mowing to Fertilizing - Hundreds of Tips for Growing a Beautiful Lawn"; Douglas Green; 2001
  • "Garden Way's Joy of Gardening"; Dick Raymond; 1983
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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