Tilling is a method of turning and mixing the soil to aerate it and distribute nutrients properly. It can improve the soil’s drainage property as well and generally make it easier to plant in. In a way, tilling can also free buried weed seeds and disturb the delicate ecosystem of many microorganisms that live and maintain the nutrients in the soil
When to till your garden depends on a lot of factors, ranging from the soil requirements to the number of plants that you are thinking of growing. Nevertheless, waiting for a few weeks after tilling before you can plant is necessary. But if it’s possible, it’s best to wait a couple of months before actually planting. A thorough tilling can definitely help you if done properly, so make sure that you pick the best time that works best for your gardening schedule.
Tilling In Fall or Winter
Let’s face it, benefits that you can get from fertilizers, soil correctors, and even composts do are not immediate. Oftentimes, it takes weeks or even months for the nutrients from these products to break down completely in the soil; Hence, that is the only time when the plants can actually start to absorb it.
If you garden mostly during summer or spring, it is best to till your soil during winter or fall to give the nutrients enough time to break down in the soil just in time for your planted crops to absorb it during planting season. But if you continue growing cool-weather plants until fall, you can wait until harvest before you start tilling in the winter.
If you are using compost or manure as soil additives to make your soil less dense, this is also the perfect time to till it in since it will allow these components to combine fully with the soil just right in time for planting season.
Furthermore, tilling in fall or winter can put weed seeds closer to the surface where they will most likely kill exposed to the cold weather and other winter elements that can be fatal to them. This will give you one less problem to think about in spring.
As a bonus, you are also given the advantage to plant earlier during spring without the need to wait out a couple of weeks because of spring tilling.
An advantage of tilling in the fall or winter, as stated above, is that you can make earlier preparations for planting. This means that your garden will only require light touch-ups before you can begin planting in it. You will find yourself in need of light and little tilling to prepare for a new round of plants as the weather start to warm up during this season. This can help prevent soil compaction that might have occurred after you harvest in the summer or late in the fall. If you have properly tilled your soil in the fall or early winter, spring touch-ups will only require a shallow and quick pass with your rototiller. You can do this right before you plant. Afterward, you can use a rake to smooth soil slightly and even up rows before planting.
Tilling in Spring
Tilling in spring might cause delays in your planting schedule, but you can still get something out of it if you don’t take many breaks from growing crops. If you decide to till in the spring, till the soil at least when it reaches at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit, using a quick release fertilizer. This is because you will have to compromise the short time that the fertilizer will have to completely break down the nutrients in the soil. Afterward, wait for two up to three weeks after tilling before you begin planting seeds or seedlings. This will give ample time for microorganisms that were disrupted by rototilling to recreate and reestablish their balance, giving them time to begin enriching the soil again.
Tilling in the spring can expose weed seeds a lot closer to the surface. However, it will have an opposite effect from tilling in the fall or winter. Because of the warm temperature, the weed will most likely sprout in this way. Make sure that you apply herbicide to the soil if you are going to be tilling it during the spring season to discourage the growth of weeds.
Regardless if you till in the fall, winter, or spring, always work additives and fertilizers in the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Watering the area for about an hour a day for three consecutive days before you till can also make it a lot easier to work on. However, you have to remember to test the moisture level of your soil before you till it. The soil should be dry enough to hold its shape but not too dry as to easily crumble in the slightest touch. Here is a guide for choose best tiller for clay soil.
When working with hard soil, set your tiller to a medium depth setting first. This can give you an easier time to dig in the soil. Afterward, you can move on to the deepest setting to continue turning up the rest of the soil.
It is also advisable that you make perpendicular passes to the original rows. This ensures that the nutrients and additives are evenly distributed in the soil and that it is loose enough for the soil to stay aerated.
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