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How to Amend Soil

By Bridget Kelly ; Updated September 21, 2017

Most gardening problems can be traced back to the soil. It is the very foundation upon which we grow our plants, and if it's not healthy, our plants won't be either. Your soil texture might be loamy, clay, sandy, silty or any combination of those, depending upon where you live and environmental conditions. Taking the time to learn about the soil in your garden, and then amending it, will pay off big later on during the growing season.

Amending the Soil in a Small Garden

Remove any weeds or sod from the planting area. Use the shovel or a trowel to break them up and remove them.

Dig down, with the shovel, 12 to 18 inches into the existing soil, placing the removed soil in a pile next to the planting bed. Remove any rocks, old roots and other debris.

Add 3 to 4 inches of compost or other amendments to the pile of removed soil and, with the spading fork, mix well.

Shovel the amended soil back into the planting bed. Use the rake to level the soil.

Water well and allow to drain prior to planting.

Amending the Soil in a Large Garden

Remove any weeds or sod from the planting area, using a rototiller.

Dig down, with the shovel, 12 to 18 inches into the soil. Turn the soil as you work, loosening up any large clods of dirt and removing rocks and other debris.

Rake the area to level it.

Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of soil amendments over the leveled planting bed.

Mix the amendments into the soil using the gardening fork. Water well and allow the soil to drain prior to planting.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Gardening trowel
  • Soil amendments such as compost, sand, manure or peat moss
  • Spading fork
  • Rake
  • Rototiller
  • Water


  • Try to walk on the newly amended soil as little as possible so that it doesn't get compacted.


  • Do not work the soil when it is wet.

About the Author


Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.