How to Plow or Till a Garden


Growing a garden, whether you want to grow flowers, shrubs, or vegetables, always starts with the soil. Plants need loose, almost fluffy soil that can hold water and allow roots to work through it easily. To plow or till a garden to get it started is not easy or quick, but with a good strategy you can prepare nearly any garden space for tender, young plants and established, large plants alike.

Step 1

Measure out the size of your garden and plant garden stakes at each corner. Run string or baling twine around the perimeter of the garden to mark it off clearly. This is especially helpful if multiple people will be helping you.

Step 2

Dig up the upper sod layer, if needed, to remove any growing grass or other plant material from the area to reveal just the bare dirt. Be sure to clear the grass from the entire area inside your marked-off garden space.

Step 3

Dig with a plow or shovel to break up the soil for the first time 10 to 12 inches deep. As rocks or other debris are uncovered, toss them into a wheelbarrow or set them aside so they are out of the way and out of the soil.

Step 4

Till or plow the soil after the initial break-up by running from one end to the other in horizontal rows. Follow the horizontal rows by tilling or plowing from side to side in vertical rows. The vertical rows will cross over your previous rows. Continue to remove rocks as you find them.

Step 5

Spread an even 4-inch layer of compost, garden soil, or well-composted manure over the entire surface of the garden.

Step 6

Pass over your garden for a third time to mix the compost in, but this time work the plow or tiller in a diagonal from one corner to the other. By the end of this tilling your soil should be quite light, fluffy and ready for planting.

Tips and Warnings

  • Follow all safety recommendations for operating your tiller or plow to avoid unnecessary injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • Tape measure
  • Garden stakes
  • String or baling twine
  • Shovel
  • Pickaxe
  • Plow
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Tiller
  • Garden soil, compost, or well-rotted manure


  • "Vegetable Gardening: Your Ultimate Guide"; Robert J. Dolezal; 2000
  • "New Complete Guide to Landscaping"; Better Homes and Gardens; 2002
Keywords: plowing a garden, tilling a garden, garden soil preparation

About this Author

Margaret Telsch-Williams is a freelance, fiction, and poetry writer from the Blue Ridge mountains. When not writing articles for Demand Studios, she works for as a contributor and podcast co-host.