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How to turn soil with a rake

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For the best results in gardening it's advisable to get the soil into a fine tilth. A garden rake can be used to improve the consistency of soil. For planting out seedlings and seeds, you will often be advised to prepare your seed beds and get a fine soil tilth. This means improving the texture of the soil. Lumps of clay and rocks in soil can be detrimental to growing conditions. You can use a rake to break up these lumps, and remove debris. Hopefully, turning or tilling your soils will create a texture resembling large breadcrumbs, which is ideal for planting.
Wonkee Donkee says "Don’t over till your garden. Turning soil unnecessarily can increase weeds by distributing their seeds in the soil"

Before you begin

Garden rakes can be used to turn soil, breaking it down to a fine tilth If your soil is particularly hard, contains a lot of clay, or is an area which hasn’t been turned for a long time, you will probably need to dig the soil to turn the deeper layers first. Use a spade, shovel or garden fork to dig into the soil, turn it over, and break up particularly large lumps. If the soil has been worked recently, or is already fairly loose in texture, you might be able to just use a rake to turn the top layers of the soil.

Turning soil

Rake through the soil with a garden rake to make it smoother for planting

Step 1 – Break up lumps

Stand with one leg in front of the other, and hold the rake with both hands. Dig the tines of the rake into the surface of the soil in front of you. Pull the rake towards you, combing it through the soil. The tines should start to break up lumps of clay, disturb stones, and uncover weed roots.

Garden rakes can be used to turn soil, breaking it down to a fine tilth

Step 2 – Remove debris

Continue to pass the rake through the soil, moving back and forth. Remove any debris as you go. The more compacted the lumps of soil are, the more you will need to push and pull the rake through the soil. You should notice the texture of the soil becoming finer as you work.

You can rake compost, manure or fertilisers into soil to help replenish its nutrients, use a garden or soil rake for best results

Step 3 – Add nutrients if needed

Compost, fertilisers or manure can be added to soil to increase the nutrients. Mix the addition into the soil with more strokes of the rake. Try to keep the surface fairly level as you rake, unless you want to grade the soil in a slope or raise it.

The flat side of a garden rake head can be used to level the soil when you've finished raking it

Step 4 – Level soil

Once you have got your soil to a fine tilth you can level it to your desired height. The tines can be used to generally level the earth you have been raking. Then the flat edge of the head can be used to smooth over the top layer of soil. You can also use the rake, held vertically, to tamp down the soil if it needs to be firm.

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