Determining when to till your garden soil

Tilling the garden is a spring ritual we look forward to all winter. And after our cool, slow warm-up this spring, many of us will be tempted to get out there and till on the first warm day.

Be careful though, it is possible to till too early. Tilling when there is too much moisture in the soil will cause it to form large clumps, ruining the soil structure.

I once did that early on in my gardening carreer. Exposure to rain and winter freezing and thawing will eventuall break down those clumps. But in my case, after two years the soil was still lumpy.

Tightly squeeze soil into a ball for this test.

Tightly squeeze soil into a ball for this test.

To help you decide when to till, use this simple test: scoop up a handful of soil and compress it tightly, like you’re making a snowball. Poke the soil ball with your finger. If it crumbles apart, then it is in good enough shape to till. If it stays in a ball, then it is still too wet to till.

Check your garden soil each day until it passes the ball-of-soil test.

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.