To prepare a growing area properly for planting, the gardener must work the soil. If the soil is not adequately prepared, plants may not be able to root efficiently and grow well. Some gardeners choose to work a small flowerbed with a simple garden spade; however, there is another option. Use a rototiller to work a garden bed to prepare for planting. By rototilling a garden, you can work the soil down to a depth necessary for the plants to establish and thrive.
Choose a time to rototill when the garden soil is moist, yet not overly wet. The soil should be moist enough to compact, but crumbly if you press it. If you are rototilling in the spring to prepare the garden bed for planting, rototill approximately three weeks before the time you want to plant.
Set the rototiller to a depth of several inches to start, if this is how your machine operates. Some rototillers simply have a light and deep setting, in which case you should start with the light setting and change to the deep setting after you have first worked the soil lightly with the rototiller.
Fill the rototiller with gas, if necessary. Make sure you know how to operate the rototiller safely and that you are strong enough to control it. Operating a rototiller requires both upper body and lower body strength. The upper body must be strong to hold the handles of the rototiller and guide it where you want it to go. The lower body must be strong to control the rototiller as it moves forward and backward along the soil.
Position the rototiller in the middle of the garden area and start it. Experiment with how it operates by making it go forward and backward in the area. When you are comfortable, begin to move the rototiller along the soil to break it up. Work until the entire area has been broken up lightly and then change the setting to work the soil more deeply. Work the entire area in this manner until it is finished. Turn the rototiller off and set it aside.
Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost over the entire surface of the soil with the rake.
Set the rototiller back to the light setting and work the compost into the soil with the rototiller until you have passed over the entire surface area with the rototiller.