As a general rule of thumb, we plant warm season crops (tomatoes, beans, squash, eggplant, etc.) after Mother’s Day. This gives us a few weeks to till the soil, add soil amendments and prepare for planting time.
If you can squeeze a handful of soil into a ball, it’s too wet to work. You will be left with clumps that will be difficult to work out.Wait until a day where the soil is dry for the best results. Add soil amendments, spread evenly across the soil surface; compost, peat moss and fertilizer. A 2-inch layer of compost will add organic matter to your garden. Spread a small bag of peat moss and 3 to 5 pounds of 12-12-12 (fertilizer, or similar product) per 100 square feet of garden space.
On your first “till,” you will want to work the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Perform this with a tiller or a shovel, depending on the size of your garden. Working the soil to this depth will help to relieve soil compaction and aid in aeration. If you choose a shovel, simply dig the soil, flip it upside down and place it back where it came from.As you do this, your soil amendments will mix in nicely.
On planting day, when the soil is dry enough to work, you can use a tiller, rake or garden hoe to work the soil to a shallower depth of 4 inches. The goal here is to prepare a planting bed that is smooth and free of large clumps. As a bonus, you will inadvertently uproot any weeds that have started to sprout. You should easily be able to knock down the clumps and rake your beds level.
By performing these processes, your garden will be ready when you are on planting day!