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Tilling a New Garden: 6 Steps to Getting Started this Spring

It’s officially Spring, according to the calendar at least! For those of us lucky enough to live in a part of the country that is already thawing from winter, the arrival of spring brings the anticipation of gardening. Here are a few helpful considerations to help you get started on tilling a new garden.

  1. Decide on a Spot
  2. Pick a Tiller
  3. Gear Up
  4. Set Till Depth & Test
  5. Happy Tilling
  6. Clean & Return

Decide on a Spot

The most simple place to start: decide on a spot. Find an area for your garden that is nice and flat, easily accessible, and close to a water source for watering if you do not have in-ground irrigation. Consider the surrounding sources of shade - ensure trees and shrubs are not so large and close that they will block your garden from sun. Full sun (or at least six hours per day) is recommended by Better Homes and Gardens for most plants to thrive.

Using stakes or some kind of marker, measure and mark out the corners or edges of your tilling area. Use these as guides when you begin tilling.

Pick a Tiller

Is your garden location on an untouched piece of land, or will you be repurposing a portion of your lawn into this garden space? There are several tiller types available on the market, but likely you will need a rear tine tiller to get the job done if working hard packed ground. Checkout our other blog post on How to Choose the Right Tiller for a full breakdown of tiller types and their preferred applications.

Other tiller types - like the smaller cultivators and front tine tillers - are great for smaller jobs in previously established gardens. But, if you are working with a new, large swath of space you will save your back and hours of work by using a larger rear-tined unit. They are heavier, buck the user around less, and stay on track with a wider tilling distance. The rear tine operation also digs deeper, tilling 5 ¼ in. deep.

Gear Up

Safety always comes first. Personal protective equipment is an essential requirement for working with equipment. Gloves, eye protection, boots, and ear protection are important for operating tillers.

Set Till Depth & Test

Decide how deep you need to till. Based on your plant requirements, a deep till will provide good aeration and break up compacted soil to prepare it for planting. Before beginning, till a small test patch and adjust the depth bar until the depth is to your standards.

Happy Tilling

Depth is set, safety gear is on, and you’re ready to start tilling! Begin slow and steady by following along the edge of the tilling area. When you reach the end of each row, disengage the tines and turn the machine until it is positioned at the start of the new row. Re-engage the tines and begin the new row.

Clean & Return

Before storing your owned tiller, or returning a rented tiller, it’s a good idea to clean off dirt and debris. Moisture and grime can become corrosive, so give the machine a good hose down and allow it to dry well before storage.

Tilling is the best way to start a patch of dirt to prepare it to become a garden. It aerates the soil, mulches in grass and weeds, and creates a soft landing pad for seeds to take root. Take advantage of the sunny weather and till your garden space early enough to allow time to plant.