turning the soil of my raised beds

Garden Structures

turned beds
My spring routine is to turn the soil of my garden beds. Today I turned three of my beds. I use a standard garden shovel and flip the soil over onto itself – the way my dad showed me years ago. If I have a cover crop, this gets turned under. This year I have a light cover of winter ryegrass. I like the wait a week or so, but sometimes right away, I smooth the soil level with the backside of a metal rake. Finally my irrigation lines get buried and the beds are ready to plant.

Tomorrow the skies are forecast to cloud over and rain is scheduled for the weekend. Once it clouds up, I plan to transplant my broccoli, kale, onions, endive and some lettuce seedlings into the garden. Exciting! My first garden transplants of the year. My pea sprouts are doing well and if I have time, I’ll sow another row or two of pea seeds. Another sign that spring is here is that there is an endless amount of garden work now.

To turn or not to turn? I’ve recently heard that turning ruins the structure of the soil. I’ll have to read more about this. To me, turning mixes in the cover crop, aerates the soil, and is a spring activity I look forward to. With only 360 sq ft, it doesn’t take very long. Afterwards I feel like I’ve done some real work. I can throw my clothes in the wash, eat and sleep well, and look forward to planting.

topic: soil

sure signs of spring

7 Comments. Leave new

  • Can I ask about your irrigation? I’m trying to decide what to set up and how. I’ve got beds that are a similar size (8’x4′).

    I’m afraid that this will be my next ‘paralysis by analysis’ block and I’ll never do anything.

    I finally just planted my beds and figure if I have to keep hand watering them in the So Cal heat, it’ll inspire me to make a decision…any decision.

    Any thoughts or resources you can share would be appreciated.


  • I’m taking a class on soil microbiology next semester so I’ll be able to tell you more then…but as I understand it, the real danger is when you dig too deep and then turn. Depending on where you are, your layer of topsoil (the good rich stuff) can be only a few inches deep–then you hit subsoil, which is of a totally different composition. If you’re digging up subsoil and putting that on top, you’re causing major damage and it won’t benefit your plants at all. I think it’s OK if you’re only mixing topsoil with topsoil–but bear in mind that soil is more fertile closer to the surface, where there’s more decaying matter, and by turning that under you’re bringing less fertile soil closer to the top–where it may not do your plants as much good.

  • It looks good.

    Good luck on getting your plot tomorrow!

  • Irrigation: Here’s a previous post of mine about my irrigation system. I love my set up of underground drip lines and the computer controlled timer.

    My guess is it was well worth the expense. The water goes directly to the roots, less evaporation loss, and I don’t loose plants because I forgot to water. Especially with tall plants, like tomatoes, an underground set up is perfect.

    My newest area of garden doesn’t have any permanent irrigation yet. I debating having the same company add to the old setup. I’ve also heard there are do-it-yourself lines around, which I think would be good to try if you want to. That’s my other option – to set a new grid up myself and hook it up to a rain barrel. I think that would be great.

    Here’s an nice post I’ve been bookmarking about rain barrels.

    For my current system, I used a company in located in a neighboring town here (I think maybe Waltham) called Autowater. They did a great job. They told me that other gardeners don’t like the lines that need to taken up and dug in again every year and prefer soaker hoses. I don’t know about them – I like my grids.

  • Thanks!

    I have a valve set up on my regular (timer controlled) irrigation that I plan to hook up to. I’m planning on running the 1/2″ lines in the beds myself and then having someone hook them up to the valve and wire the valve to the system (etc.) for me.

    I’ve been angsting over how many lines to run, how far apart, etc. I see that yours are 3 lines down each bed, which I think are not quite 4 feet wide. My beds are four feet wide, so they’re similar.

    Does water come out of both sides of each pipe? Any problem down the center with the water not stretching?

    I’m trying to decide…3 lines? 4 lines?

  • There are not very many holes in the pipes. Two rows, one on each side. Maybe 2 or 3 inches apart. The system is best for established plants as there are wetter and dryer areas down the center.

    I also have a set of pop up sprayers along the edge of the stone path that I angle into the garden when I have seedlings. Or I hand water seedlings.

    My beds are 3 feet 9 inches wide. If you are going to remove the pipes to turn the soil in spring, 4 lines may be harder to handle, but you could do 2 separate loops of 2.

    I water well (about 45 minutes) every 2 to 3 days to get a good soaking on the soil.

  • Turning the soil: Soil microbiology sounds like a GREAT class. What fun.

    One thing is I don’t turn very deep. I use a standard shovel, so I turn about 6 inches at most. And its partly a mix, partly a turn. I’ve been doing this for ever, do I think my good soil is pretty well distributed in the top 6 inches.


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