How to Get Soil Ready for a Garden

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Things You'll Need

  • Shovel

  • Dirt rake

  • pH soil testing kit

  • Tiller

  • Compost

  • Lime (if needed)

A little soil preparation goes a long way for your garden plants.

Enjoying a productive garden often involves soil preparation before the spring growing season. Some gardeners may forget that what you do to the soil before you plant your crops may be even more important as what you do after your plants are in the ground. If your soil does not drain well, is packed too tightly, or has an unfavorable pH level, your seeds may be doomed before you even put them in the ground. You can ensure that your plants will enjoy a strong, nutrient-rich environment with a little time and effort in the fall.


Step 1

Remove any weeds from the garden area. Dig the weeds up with a shovel so you completely get rid of the root system. A weed can grow back from just a tiny piece of its root, so you need to remove it all.

Step 2

Test the pH of your garden soil with a soil testing kit. Most, but not all plants do well in soil with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8.

Step 3

Add a thin layer of lime to the soil to lower the soil PH if you need to. Spread the lime into the soil with a dirt rake.


Step 4

Till the soil. Rent a tiller from a garden supply store. Set the depth gauge to between 6 and 8 inches, or to medium. Push the tiller through the garden area one time, as you would a lawnmower.

Step 5

Apply a layer of compost to the tilled soil. You can make your own compost or purchase it from a garden supply store or nursery.

Step 6

Till the soil again to combine the compost with the soil. Push the tiller in perpendicular rows across the rows you tilled the first time.


Step 7

Let the soil sit undisturbed for the remainder of the fall and winter. Water the soil occasionally if your region receives little rain or snow during the winter months.

Step 8

Add another layer of compost to the soil, about two weeks before planting your seeds.

Step 9

Till the soil to blend the soil and compost. Plant your seeds in two weeks.