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Expert tips to till your garden

Before you break soil for this season’s garden, it may be time to give that bed an extra boost. While tilling can seem intimidating at first, experts can show you how to lay back and let the rototiller do all the work!

Woman planting flowers

Must-have garden tilling supplies

Troybilt roto tiller

Rototiller (TroyBilt, $400-$2,500)


Cultivator for smaller gardens (Home Depot, $199)

soil tester

Soil testing kit (Ace Hardware, $19)

Expert tips to till your garden

Tip 1: Pull those weed

Before digging into starting a new garden, remove the sod first. However, if you are refurbishing an existing garden, go ahead and pull out all the thick weeds. Any small stragglers can be left behind for the rototiller to chop up.

Tip 2: Watch out for underground utility lines

Call 811 ahead of time to make sure you are not venturing into soil with utility lines underneath it. If a utility line is punctured, you can harm yourself and people around you, possibly be responsible for disrupted service throughout a neighborhood, and may have to pay fines for the destroyed property.

Tip 3: Don’t forget a soil test

Always use a soil testing kit to evaluate the soil. If the soil is damp or has high clay content, add sand or gypsum to help break up and allow moisture and nutrients to maneuver through the soil. Place soil into a testing tube.

  • If soil is acidic and has a low pH reading, add lime or wood ash to balance it.
  • If soil is alkaline and has a high pH level, add peat moss, compost or sawdust to balance it.

Tip 4: Time to break out the rototiller

A rototiller is used to blend all organic material deep into the soil and to spread it in the places it’s needed most. The best time to till is one or two days after it rains so the dirt is somewhat dry.

Tip 5: Take your time

When using a tiller for the first time, start the tiller on a shallow setting for compacted soil, but for softer ground you can rev it up to the medium setting. Engage the drive and slowly proceed, making parallel passes across the entire garden. Lay back and let the tiller do the work! Set the tiller to the deepest setting, and make perpendicular passes over the ones you previously made. Make sure to take it slow and keep tilling until the organic material is mixed into the soil about eight inches deep.

Tip 6: Let it rest

After your first round of tilling, let the soil set for a few days to several weeks to let components decompose and for the nutrients to enrich the soil.

Tip 7: Let it rip one more time

Go for a second round of tilling! Set the tiller to the medium setting and make a second pass of parallel rows. Then hit the accelerator up to the deepest setting and make passes perpendicular to those previously created. This will ensure that your soil is loose, fluffy and finely textured.

Tilling before planting those vibrant-colored flowers for the summer is a necessity for making sure your soil is full of nutrients and a good foundation for your plants.

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