How to Prepare Soil for Gardening


Home gardens express hours of labor in brightly colored flowers, fresh fruits and delicious vegetables. Healthy gardens start with properly prepared soil and a little advance planning. Begin by finding an area that receives sufficient sunlight for the plants you wish to grow and is protected from foraging animals and heavy foot traffic. Allocate at least a week's worth of time to prepare your soil before planting your first seed in the ground.

Step 1

Pull any weeds in your planting area. It is important to remove the root structures and the plant itself to prevent any regrowth or competition for nutrients.

Step 2

Use a spade or till to loosen the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. Break up large clumps of dirt with your hands or feet. Avoid using a rototiller if possible, as it can disrupt healthy garden animals such as earthworms and deplete important micro-organisms.

Step 3

Discard any large sticks and stones.

Step 4

Mix in a 2- to 3-inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost. Use a shovel to fold it into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. This should be done at least once a year to provide natural fertilizer for your plants.

Step 5

Level soil onto an even plane by using a steel rake. Spread dirt evenly across the planting area to ensure equal water absorption.

Step 6

Test soil pH using a home test kit. Near neutral soil with a pH as close to 7 as possible is ideal when planting a new garden. Acidic or alkaline soils may require mineral amendments depending on the type of plants you wish to grow.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Till
  • Steel rake
  • Compost
  • pH kit


  • Utah State University: Preparing Garden Soil
  • The Garden Helper: Planting Site
Keywords: new garden, prepare soil, plant garden

About this Author

Kelsey Erin Shipman has worked as a travel writer, poet, journalist and award-winning photographer since 2004. Her work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines and journals. Shipman has also authored three collections of poetry: "Cold Days," "Bastante" and "Short Poems." She earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Southwestern University.