Loosening the Dirt from Your Garden
The next step to preparing the land for your garden is to loosen the dirt. This is an important step because loosened dirt makes it easier for the roots of your plants to grow and to spread. This also helps them create a stronger hold within the dirt. The better the roots grow, the healthier and stronger your plants will be.
Use Your Handy-Dandy Shovel Again
You have a couple options available to you for loosening the dirt.
Your first option is to use your spade. To loosen the dirt with your spade, you will shovel the entire area to the depth the spade allows.
Each time you dig up a load of dirt with the spade, turn the clump of dirt upside down and move on to the next section of the garden plot.
If your dirt is somewhat sandy, flipping the dirt clumps upside down may be all that is needed to loosen the dirt. If your dirt has a great deal of clay to it, however, the ground will likely remain in a hard clump when you dig it out of the ground. If the dirt does not break apart and loosen when you dig it up and flip it upside down, you will need to use your spade to break the dirt apart.
Let a Machine Do the Work with a Tiller
An easier way to loosen the dirt for your garden plot is to use a tiller. A tiller is a machine with rotating blades at the bottom that are specifically designed to tear up dirt for a garden. These tools can be pushed and pulled while you remain in a standing position, similar to a push lawn mower.
If you are creating a small garden, you really don’t need a large tiller.
Large tillers are more expensive than smaller models and can be quite heavy and cumbersome to operate. On the other hand, they are capable of covering a greater surface at one time. I personally use the Mantis brand tiller. This tiller is small, lightweight, and easy to use. I have had it for about five years and it is still running strong and I have never had to replace any of its parts.
Using a tiller is a much simpler method for loosening the dirt in your garden plot, but it is more expensive to purchase a tiller than it is to purchase a spade. Therefore, it is up to you whether or not it is worth the expense.
An added bonus to a tiller is that you do not necessarily have to remove the grass and weeds before loosening the dirt. A tiller can tear right through the grass and weeds for you. Be careful when using this option, however, because some weeds will propagate when they are chopped up. If you do decide to use the tiller to cut through the weeds and grass while also loosening the dirt, you will need to comb through the dirt with a garden rake in order to remove the grass and weeds. Otherwise, they can re-establish themselves in your garden.
Using a Garden Rake
A garden rake is not the same as a leaf rake. Both garden rakes and leaf rakes have a long handle and tines at the end, but the design of the tines is different. The tines of a leaf rake are loose and long in order to allow the rake to glide softly over the ground without damaging the grass. Garden rakes, on the other hand, have shorter tines that bend at a 90 degree angle. The tines of a garden rake are also very stiff because they are meant to rake through the ground, not over it.
After you have tilled the entire garden plot area, use your garden rake to comb through the loosened dirt. If the dirt has been adequately loosened, it will sift right through the tines while they catch hold of the grass, weeds, and other plant debris that needs to be removed. When you are all done, the dirt should be smoothed out flat with several ruts running through it that have been created by the tines of the rake.
Even if you do remove the grass and weeds from your garden area before you loosen the dirt, you should use the garden rake as your final step of the dirt loosening process. This is true whether you use a tiller to loosen the dirt or a spade. In this way, you can be assured all large clumps of dirt have been broken down and you also have a nice, smooth surface to work with.