How to Prepare Garden Soil in the Fall

Now that the long, hot summer is pretty much behind us, it is time to clean up our gardens and prepare for new plantings. Some gardeners will be planting bulbs, perennials, shrubs, and trees yet this fall, while others will wait ’til next spring to put new plants in the ground. Even if you are not planting this fall, it’s a lot easier to work the soil now than in early spring when it is cold, damp, and clumpy. Either way, preparing the soil now will help assure successful planting. Just follow these easy steps:

Clean out the old and bad

Spent annuals, fallen tree leaves and sticks, and rocks that have heaved to the surface should be removed before you start working the soil, as should weeds that have sprouted in your beds. For severe weed problems, treat them with weed & grass killer about 2 weeks before turning the soil.

 Spread organic matter

Using compost from your compost pile, individual bagged soil amendments (such as sphagnum peat moss, organic humus, compost, and manure), or a pre-mixed product, spread a layer of organic matter 2 to 3 inches deep on top of the soil. Don’t be stingy with it!

Work the organic matter into the soil

If you want some good aerobic exercise, use a spade to turn the organic material under and break up clumps in the soil. Or use a rototiller to do most of the work for you – they’re available for rent if you don’t own one or have access to a neighbor’s. Work everything in well, down to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

Rake it out

Level the soil with a garden rake, removing any further rocks and debris that were brought to the surface.

Now you’re ready for planting!