Should You Till Your Ground?

If you have a look on gardening forums you’ll see that there is a lot of discussion around the topic of tilling ground. There seems to be varied views on whether or not you should till ground. Some say it does no good, while others say that you actually harm the soil by tilling it. Should you till your ground? Well, the answer is a very unsatisfying “Maybe” because it depends on a number of factors.

Vegetable garden

When You Should Till

The argument for tilling is a valid one if you’re faced with these conditions. If you’re breaking new ground then you’re probably going to need to till it before you can plant. In the good old days you’d have to go at it with a hoe or get out a small plow to hook up to your horse. Fortunately today we have rototillers, also known as a cultivator, that make the hob a lot easier.

If your veggie garden is completely bare at the end of the season then it might be a good idea to till it before planting again. You can then cover it with cardboard or newspaper and then throw compost and muclh on top of it.  In a few weeks you’ll have great soil ready to plant and you can then go the no till route afterwards.

If you want to speed up decomposition and try to add organic material into your soil the tilling will definitely speed up the process. Just make sure that you don’t till ground that is full of root spreading weeds because that will just make a bad problem worse.


When You Shouldn’t Till

The argument against tilling is that it destroys the structure of the soil. Gardeners in this camp will tell you that tilling may solve some short term problems but, in the long term, the soil suffers because of it. At best they say that you may just be wasting your time and effort.

Nature does have a way of doing its own tilling. Earthworms and other creepy crawlies make their way through the soil and do a good job of keeping the soil in good condition. These bugs do some great natural aeration of the soil. Running a rototiller through soil can damage the healthy bacteria and kill the earthworms.

Garden Tiller
Norlett 5210 Garden tiller

Choosing The Right Tiller

If you feel that you must till then make sure you get the right tiller for the job. For softer soil and established gardens you can save yourself some money and get a smaller front tine tiller. If your soil is hard clay, rocky or full of roots then you’re going to need to get a rear tine tiller to get the job done properly. These can be pricey but it’s the only way to go if you need to break new, hard ground. Make sure you read some rear tine tiller reviews before choosing so that you get the best rear tiller for the job. There are some great tiller reviews over at the best that are worth reading too.


Perhaps the best strategy is to be patient and take the long-term view with your soil. Take good care of the soil and within a few years, you’ll have ground that is fairly weed free and doesn’t need any tilling or digging. If you absolutely feel like you need to till then make sure that you don’t till too deeply. Happy gardening!