Tilling Soil Manually

by April Reinhardt
(last updated July 29, 2015)

I could say that I have fond childhood memories of gardening, but I'd be lying. My memories include hoeing, raking, breaking up dirt clumps, discarding grass, and nursing blisters. The most difficult part of the gardening experience was tilling native soil and preparing the ground for the garden. If we had a large yard, Mom sometimes had a large garden and paid someone to till the ground with a power tiller. Other times, in smaller yards, we tilled the garden manually. Tilling soil manually involves using several different garden tools and a lot of hard work.

When tilling soil manually, consider first the implements you will need. That list might include:

  • Spading forks to turn large clumps of dirt and loosen hard soil.
  • Shovels for digging.
  • Spades for scooping and cultivating.
  • Pitchforks to move large branches, rocks, and small twigs.
  • Metal rakes for grading the soil.
  • Flexible rakes for removing grass clippings, leaves, and tiny twigs.
  • Metal manual cultivators to aerate the soil.
  • Large hoes to remove and chop weeds.

Once you've gathered all of your equipment, prepare your area by removing all of the stones, rocks, and large debris such as branches, twigs, and dead leaves. Follow these guidelines to manually till your soil:

  • If you're tilling your soil from native ground with grass still attached, use your large shovel to dig the grass, turning it over as you go. You can also use a large hoe to cut grass in sections, and pull it up. Cut just to the depth of the grass.
  • Use your rakes to remove any loose grass.
  • There will be rocks underneath the sod, so remove all of the rocks and any weeds.
  • Alternating between using your hoe, spade, and cultivator, till the soil slowly, in sections.
  • As you finish one section, use your metal rake to smooth the soil, flipping it over to use the back edge to grade the soil.
  • Use your cultivator to aerate the soil in that section, going crossways, and then diagonally to complete the tilling process.

Repeat the process over and over again, until you've completed all sections of the soil. Once you've tilled the entire plot of ground in separate sections, consider all of the sections as one large plot, and use your manual cultivator to till the entire plot. As you slowly till the soil, look for rocks, stones, twigs, and weeds and remove them as you till. Finish the tilling job by using your metal rake to grade the soil to a uniform depth.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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