How to Plow a Garden: Beginner’s Guide (Using Hands or Tractor)

A garden is one of the most beautiful things that you can have. Many people love to work on their gardens, but how do you plow a garden?

A plow turns over the top layer of the garden soil and softens it so that the soil is ready for planting. It allows plant roots to penetrate the soil and grow freely, promoting aeration in turn.

Plowing your garden means breaking up the soil and making garden rows so that it’s loose and easy for seeds to grow. There are many different ways to plow a garden, some better than others.

In this article, we are going to talk about everything you need to know about plowing – including both plowing methods using your hands and using a tractor.

How to Plow Your Garden

There are three types of plowing:

  1. plowing using your hands
  2. plowing using a tractor

How to Plow a Garden by Hands

How to plow a garden by hand
Plowing by Hand

Don’t get me wrong, plowing the garden by hand doesn’t mean you need to literally dig into the dirt using your hands!

Plowing by hand almost always means you’ll do it by using a hoe or a rake.

This method only requires you to use a hoe and break up any clumps of dirt using back-and-forth motions with this tool.

It’s important not to dig too deep or try moving large chunks of soil around as this can be damaging for plant roots in your garden.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. First, you need to take a hoe and use it to break the soil.
  2. Then, you need to remove any large roots or rocks that might be in your way.
  3. Next, take another hoe and use it to turn over the soil; If you aerate your garden, it will help with water retention.
  4. Now, you need to take a rake and smooth out the soil.
  5. Finally, it’s time to plant your seeds.

How to Plow a Garden with a Tractor

If you have a large backyard, using a tractor might be a good idea. You don’t necessarily need those huge tractors that are used in farms but compact tractors are good enough for most average-sized gardens.

Let’s check out some common types of tractor plows.

Types of Tractor Plows

There are many different types of tractor plows that you can use. They all have the same function but they do differ in certain ways. Here are some of the most common tractor plows:

1. Three-bottom plow

You can use it if the soil is too heavy.

However, If it’s very light, using one with more bottoms might cause too much resistance.

2. Moldboard plow

It allows for better aeration of your garden bed because the soil falls back into place on its own.

This plow is designed to dig deep into the soil and leave a trough-style indentation for planting.

4. Chisel plow

It is perfect for garden beds with light soil, and you will want to use your chisel plow if the soil is full of rocks or roots.

5. Spike tooth

It’s usually used as a secondary tillage tool and should be applied after primary cultivation with a moldboard plow.

6. Drag plow

It helps you to get rid of small rocks or clumps of dirt, and it’s perfect for beds that are too wet for moldboard plowing.

After the drag is finished, you might need to follow up with secondary tillage.

A drag will give your soil a great deal of compaction because the teeth hit hard ground repeatedly.

During secondary tillage, you should again break up hard ground and level off low spots.

7. One-bottom plow

You can use it anytime to create a large vegetable garden.

How to Use a Plow Attachment

Though most people plow to about one foot, a plow gets deep and can go 20 inches into the soil. 

The average gardener doesn’t have to plow often, usually just for starting a new garden.

When plowing your garden:

  1. Make sure your plow is level with the ground, side-to-side, and front-to-back before starting.
  2. Next, start by furrowing down one side of your area.
  3. Then proceed to turn around so you can begin again on this other section while adjusting for any difference in levels throughout these areas.
  4. Now place a right tractor tire near where you started so it will throw soil back into the first row you created, giving both rows equal depth without having to stop or check measurements along each row’s length.

What You Need to Know Before Plowing Your Garden

A dead furrow between beds with a very narrow cross-section will help keep water out of your garden bed until you’re ready to plant.

The soil turning process increases the fertility of the garden dirt, especially when quality compost is broadcast on top of the freshly plowed and aerated ground.

You’ll want to fertilize your garden by spreading it on the plowed soil once you’re done plowing.

Brown soil to fertilize your garden

To get the most out of your fall garden, you should plan what kind of soil amendments and fertilizers to use.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Compost (a mix of organic matter that has decomposed into a dark brown or black crumbly material).
  2. Seasoned manure (solid animal dung in dry form), beneficial insects like ladybugs who can help control pests on plants), and straw as ground cover).
  3. Inspect the growing plot to be plowed carefully, remove any debris that could harm the tractor or pose a safety risk to the operator, and harvest any items you want to forage.

When to Plow Your Garden?

The best time to plow is when the soil feels dry and crumbles in your hand.

When you squeeze a handful of dirt, it should break apart into loose, powdery clumps that are easy to crumble under your thumb.

If this isn’t happening yet, or if there’s still some stickiness left, hold off on planting for now until further notice.

This is how to plow a garden at its best.

Plowing needs to be done during the fall or winter when leaves are no longer on the trees.

However, the benefits of fall plowing come when you need to add amendments that will take time to have an effect, and it allows for plant roots to penetrate through the soil.

What are the Benefits of Plowing Your Garden

During the garden plowing process, the majority of the weeds’ root systems are broken up.

The weed seeds that lie below the topsoil need light to germinate, and the plowing process exposes them to sun, air, and drying out.

The fresh layer of nutrients boosts plants already growing in the soil, as well as those yet to be sown.

The remains of the natural matter can now break down far more quickly to help enhance the quality of the garden soil.

Farmers have differing views on what is the difference between tilling and plowing.

Difference Between Tilling and Plowing

Tilling and plowing are two agricultural practices with many similarities, but they also differ in their intended purpose. 

For instance, both tilling and plowing help prepare the soil for crops by breaking up clumps of dirt along with other beneficial effects such as burying crop residues or controlling weeds.

However, while tilling is meant to improve the quality of the soil so that plants can germinate efficiently (by making it loose).

Plowing helps control weed growths before planting time comes around after having first broken up those hard chunks.

Tilled areas should be left slightly rough, whereas smoothened out spaces would result from a well-plowed field.

Here are the main difference between these two techniques – Tillage requires little energy input.

You don’t have to break up the soil or till very deep. As a rule of thumb, you should till the soil at a length of 12 inches or lower.

​​But be warned, tilling too often will cause more harm than good to the soil.

When is the Right Time to Till

Tilling your garden is best done during the spring season because there’s less frost on the ground, giving your plants an ample amount of time to grow.

You’ll want to till now so that you can ensure seedlings germinate and maximize their potential by having loose soil for them spread roots in.

Most likely, winter snow and rain have compacted your soil which tills opens up, allowing air to circulate into it.

Soil does not appreciate tilling during the early season.

Tilling will cause soil to become too stiff and unable to hold moisture, which is a recipe for disaster given that it’s supposed to be raining then.

The same goes with rototilling at this time of year; you’ll end up destroying the structure of your garden by turning wet sand into clay.

When left alone in its natural state, soggy sand can retain water well enough until later on when things dry out naturally due.

Soil is the lifeblood of your garden.

Take care of it so that it can take care of you.