How to Till a Garden

Soil is a primary component of gardening, and tilling a garden makes the soil healthier and more suitable to aid the growth of plants. When gardeners till garden soil, they eliminate pests and control weed growth in it that are both deterring to the development of the plants. However, many new as well as well-meaning gardeners do not know how to till a garden the right way and when to do it for optimum efficiency. Remember, you can mix amendments and nutrients into the earth more effectively if you till garden soil.

What is Tilling?

Tilling is the process of breaking up and turning over the soil. You can till garden soil to different depths depending on what you are tilling it for. Tilling a garden helps remove unwanted weeds and dead roots from the soil and allows you to mix it with nutrients that the soil requires to better its health and condition. Compacted soil is another problem that can be solved by tilling a garden.

You can till garden soil with a tilling machine swiftly and efficiently, but not everyone can afford one, and if you have a small front yard or backyard garden and do not want to invest in one, you can also do it manually. If you wish to place a ready-to-plant garden bed on your lawn, tilling is essential as it turns over sod and allows the soil to mix with the organic matter in your grass. This way, you can quickly turn a section of your lawn into a garden bed. Here is how to till a garden the perfect way.

How to Till a Garden

What You’ll Need to Till Your Garden

Here is a list of equipment and gardening tools you will need for tilling a garden:

Tilling machine

or a hand tiller







Make sure all the tools are correctly functioning and durable to prevent a risk of injury.

Learn How to Till a Garden

Let’s go ahead and take a look at how to till a garden.

Step 1: Prepare the Area

Clear the area you want to till by removing any waste, shrub and tree roots, stones, and weeds. If big rocks and roots are firm in the ground, you can use a pickaxe to break them into smaller pieces and dislodge them—some weeds, like dandelions that have long taproots and are challenging to get out from the ground. If you break their taproots and a piece of it is left inside the ground, it will most likely regrow pretty soon. Using an auger is effective against such weeds and long taproots.

Clearing the area is vital as these hard materials can damage the tiller. You can use a hoe to remove the waste or pick it up with a shovel and throw it away. A rake can be used to remove roots and weeds from the ground. If there is grown vegetation or tall grass, knock it down by mowing it.

Step 2: Mark the Boundaries and Rows

You can use spare lumber or string to mark clearly visible rows and boundaries of your garden bed. This will enable you to create a better bed shape and separate different kinds of plants, trees, or shrubs. You can decide on increasing or decreasing the tilling area at this point after you are able to visibly see the size of the bed.

Step 3: Lay Out Compost

If the purpose of your tilling was adding compost or if your soil requires compost, you need to lay out the compost across the whole marked area and distribute it evenly with the help of a rake, shovel, or hoe. Compost has to be added before you start the tilling.

Step 4: Start Tilling

If you are using a tilling machine, the process will feel pretty much like mowing your lawn. You just have to turn on the tiller and push it slowly back and forth and continue walking slowly across the length of the area you want to till. Make sure not to cover the same spot twice, or it can result in soil compaction under the tilled area. Loose soil that aerates well is always better for plants. Also, be careful not to overlap the rows and do not move the machine too quickly ahead of you. Give it time to work its way around.

Make sure you sharpen the blades and replace the spark plug of the tilling machine before initiating the process. Also, check to ensure its oil is clean.

How to till a garden manually? Take a shovel and start digging up soil 10 inches deep. You can dig in rows or columns, but you have to do it across the full area of the garden bed. Fill up the diggings with the same soil that you dug out. Slowly rake over the soil after you have finished tilling. You can also use a hand tiller for tilling a garden which can save you from digging up the whole area.

When to Till Garden Soil?

Another important question other than ‘how to till a garden?’ for gardeners is ‘when to till a garden?’ The best and most effective time for tilling a garden is the start of the spring season to reverse the compacting effects of the winter rains and snow. Additionally, you can till the soil throughout the year if you want to control weeds or mix compost in it. Just remember not to till garden soil when it is wet as it can form clumps and prevent the air from reaching and circulating within the soil.

Our Final Thoughts


Now that you know how to till a garden, you can till yours to make it healthy and effective for planting the plants and trees you like. Manual tilling is a tedious and tiring task, but the rewards are splendid. An additional tip is to add a layer of 100% organic material like mulch or organic waste, or oils. It is recommended to till garden soil every time before planting something new. It can give your plantings a boost that will make them thrive in no time.