Proper soil preparation provides the basis for a healthy, productive garden. With soil preparation, there can be "too much of a good thing" because applying too much of anything can damage the soil and may even prevent the soil from being able to use its own nutrients, according to the Purdue University Extension. With regular yearly maintenance your soil will become easier to manage each year.
Move the rototiller's gauge to 8 inches. Place the rototiller's tines into the soil. Start working in rows overlapped by 6 inches. Dig the tines into the soil until soil is loose and depth is achieved.
Rake the soil to uncover rocks and weeds in the tilled soil. Remove by hand. Toss weeds into a trash bag. Set rocks in other areas of your garden or yard.
Collect four soil samples from four different areas of the garden. Collect about a 1/4 cup sample from each area with a shovel and place in a bucket. Mix the samples with the shovel's tip.
Purchase a soil test kit, available at garden centers. Place a small amount of the soil sample into the test tubes provided. Follow the specific directions provided with the test. Most soil tests require you place a small amount of soil, water and a powdered chemical into the test tubes. After a few minutes, the test provides an analysis of your soil by the color contained in the test tube. Use the provided color analysis chart to determine levels of phosphorous, nitrogen, potassium and pH in your soil.
Apply proper amendments to the soil. All gardens benefit from a 1-inch layer of compost. Or add equal parts compost, peat moss and vermiculite to make the soil even healthier. Most plants prefer neutral to slightly acidic pH conditions. Raise soil pH by adding limestone. Lower soil pH by adding sulfur. Add the amendments to the top of the soil with a shovel.
Address other soil deficiencies by applying fertilizer. Purchase a fertilizer addressing your specific soil issues such as low levels of nitrogen or phosphorus. Apply following the directions on the fertilizer's label.
Till the garden again to mix in the amendments and any fertilizer applied.
Water the soil lightly until it appears completely saturated.
Add organic matter such as grass clippings on top of the soil to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Continue adding organic matter to the garden throughout the year.