Plowing and Digging Soil

When should soil be tilled or plowed?

Any time of year when not so wet as to roll in large clods, or so dry as to be a powdery dust.

Does it harm soil to work it while wet?

Yes, especially if the soil is heavy. Plowing compacts such soils, and clods and unbreakable lumps will result. Heavy soils will puddle and bake and will be difficult to work into a friable state.

What makes soil break up into large, hard lumps after it is plowed?

The structure is bad – too clayey. Add compost, peat moss, and other organic materials, and cinders, or sand. Do not till or dig while soil is wet.

Is it better to plow gardens in the fall or spring?

Fall plowing is better, especially when there is sod to be turned under. It reduces erosion, exposes heavy soils to frost, kills exposed insects, brings about decay or organic matter, and makes for earlier planting. In the South, however, where little or not freezing occurs, fall plowing is apt to cause leaching.

I have a field that hasn’t been plowed for years. I would like to have a vegetable garden. Is it best to plow in fall?

Fall plowing is best in such cases.

We had land plowed which has not been cultivated for about 40 years. What is the best time to put lime and fertilizer on soil? Plow early in the fall. Add lime at 2 lbs. or more per 100 sq. ft. (as test indicates) and a complete fertilizer at the same rate (or preferably a week or two later) and cultivate in. In the spring, hoe, apply fertilizer, rake, and seed.

Last year I made a new garden by filling in about 10 to 18 ins. deep with loam. What should be done with this ground to put in proper shape for this year’s home garden?

Add manure or compost and till or dig, preferably in the fall.

We plan to make a garden on a city lot infested with poison-ivy, wild honeysuckle, and blackberry vines. Can you make any suggestions as to how we can rid soil of these? Will the roots from these vines ruin such root crops as potatoes?

Kill woody plants with a chemical brush killer. Poison-ivy is dangerous, even when dead, so handle with care. Plant vegetables and remove, by frequent hand hoeing, shoots of weeds that appear. Roots of the vines will decompose and not injure vegetables.

Should ground be tilled or loosened up each year before planting, or only a little hole dug to put in bulbs or seeds?

It is better to plow or spade soil before planting each crop and easier in the long run.

Is it undesirable to leave soil barren after plowing, or after crops have been harvested?

It should either be kept cultivated, or mulched. If there is time (before the plot will be needed for future use) grow a green manure crop.

Does burning weeds on vacant lots in any way harm the soil for growing vegetables?

The lots have lain idle for a great many years. No. A certain amount of minerals is added and weed seeds are killed. Where there is a choice in the fall, between burning or digging, it is better to dig or till.

Should I burn off the garden in the fall, or should stalks be plowed under?

If your old stalks are disease free, it is better to plow under than burn. Diseased material should be burned.

In plowing cleared ground that had a growth of wild berries and brush, what should the procedure be?

Spray with a brush killer. Burn off dead brush, fertilizer, and dig or till.

How can I loosen up hardpan soil on a 40-acre field?

Use a subsoil plow.

How do you prepare soil in the fall for spring flower beds?

Apply compost or peat moss. Dig and allow soil to weather over winter. In spring apply a garden fertilizer at a recommended rate, then rake or till before planting.

After spading in fall, how does one proceed in spring?

If manure is dug in at time of spring spading, can lime also be used? How? See above. Add lime only if a pH test reads less than 6.0.