Proper preparation of the soil is the key to well-formed vegetables and a bountiful harvest. Flower gardens need the same care. Turning the soil can be done by hand or by using a plow.
Rake dead leaves, sticks and debris that may have accumulated over the winter. Clearing the garden area before winter also reduces the chance of insects or bacteria filtering down into the top layers of the soil, which may result in poor soil nutrition in the spring.
Determine the health of your soil by taking a plug sample to your local nursery or agricultural school for testing. Most soil will benefit from plowing, no matter how healthy it appears. Plowing enables gardeners to evenly rake or shape the soil; it also makes the planting process easier.
Plow in early spring when the danger of frost has passed. Use a harrow pulled by a tractor, or for smaller areas use a rototiller.
You can tell if the area is ready to plow by digging up a chunk of soil with a shovel. If the soil stays clumped, the ground is still too wet to plow. The soil should break up and crumble easily. Run the plow length-wise and width-wise over the area to evenly distribute the nutrients.
To prepare the plot by hand, create a trench along one side of the garden area with a shovel. Then dig another row next to trench, turning the soil from the second trench into the first. Continue through the garden in this manner. After the entire area has been turned, sprinkle fertilizer and a soil amendment like compost over the surface. Turn the soil again to work in the material, then rake the area smooth.