K-State Research and Extension News
October 05, 2012
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Soil Preparation in the Garden Now Will Help With Spring Planting

MANHATTAN, Kan. – We’re barely into fall, but gardeners should begin working their soil now in order to improve the health of their soil for spring planting.

Fall is the best time to prepare garden soil, according to K-State Research and Extension horticulturalist Ward Upham. The soil is often too wet in the spring to work without forming clods that will be present the rest of the growing season.

"Even if you work wet soil in the fall and form clods, the freezing and thawing that takes place in the winter will break them down, leaving a mellow soil the following spring,” Upham said.

He also recommended working leftover garden debris into the soil, which reduces the chances of insects surviving the winter and decreases the risk of diseases overwintering.

“Working the debris into the soil is easier if you mow the old vegetable plants several times to reduce the size of the debris,” he said.

Tilling old plant materials into the soil increases the organic matter content, although it is usually a good idea to add in additional organic materials as well, such as leaves, grass clippings or rotten hay. Adding these materials in the fall allows more time for them to be broken down before spring planting. Upham recommended adding two inches of organic matter to the soil surface before tilling.

He also warned against over-tilling the soil.

“You should end up with particles the size of grape nuts or larger,” he said. “If you work garden soil into the consistency of dust, you have destroyed the soil structure.”


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Bethany Sanderson
K-State Research & Extension News

Ward Upham – 785-532-1438 or wupham@ksu.edu