The Topeka Capital-Journal
The soil in annual flower beds and vegetable gardens should be prepared in the fall, and mid- to late November is a good time to perform that task.
Deep tillage using a plow, spade or spading fork is preferable to shallow tilling with a roto-tiller, but if a roto-tiller is used, it should be adjusted so that it slowly cultivates deeply without pulverizing the soil.
Turning the soil in the fall has several advantages, including these:
- Organic materials such as compost, leaves, aged manure or a bagged amendment can be mixed into the soil and will undergo some decomposition during the winter.
- Heavy, tight soil will benefit from freeze/thaw cycles during the winter, improving its workability. Because of the freezing and thawing that soil goes through during the winter, gardeners can get by with working a soil that is a little too wet, something that wouldn't be possible in the spring when working wet soil would result in difficult clods that might persist throughout the growing season.
- Surface debris and crop residue will be incorporated, which may reduce carry-over of some insect and disease problems.
- Earthworm populations may be protected by the air insulation that develops from surface tillage.
- Soil that is fall prepared permits planting earlier in the spring, especially if the early spring weather is wet.
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