How to Prepare Your Soil in Fall for Your Spring Garden

Wheelbarrow full of fall gardening supplies
What You'll Need
Gardening gloves
Garden fork or small shovel
Compost, shredded leaves and grass, and/or manure
Cover-crop seeds
Shredder (optional)

Even if winter is just around the corner, you can begin preparing your garden for next spring. Not only will your springtime workload be lightened if you begin preparing in the fall, but also your soil will possibly produce a more successful crop.

Step 1 – Remove Debris

Removing Remnants

First, remove any non-organic debris from the area. This debris includes items like stakes, tomato cages, and other support systems.


Then, remove other remnants from the year’s harvest, like sticks, rocks, or weeds that have made their way into your garden. The easiest way to remove this debris is to use a tiller, and a garden fork or shovel. Turn and loosen the soil, being sure to get under any established root systems.


After tilling, pick through the garden to remove any other debris. If you have a shredder, you can shred your plant debris to make mulch. However, don’t toss in any weeds or plants that are blighted or diseased.

Step 2 – Break up Dirt

Once you’ve gotten the debris out of the way, use the tiller again to break up any remaining dirt clods. Dig through the soil well to allow as much oxygen in as possible.

Step 3 – Add Organic Matter

Next, add organic matter, like compost, manure, and chopped-up leaves and grass clippings. You can even make your own compost to add to your garden.

Turn the soil and organic matter together, so that it’s evenly mixed. This organic matter will supply nutrients, increase oxygen in the soil, and promote microbial activity. In addition, it will create an environment for better drainage.

Step 4 – Plant a Cover Crop

Finally, to prepare your garden for spring during fall, plant a cover crop to protect your soil and nutrients within the garden. You can choose from several types of cover crops, such as winter rye, Austrian winter peas, vetch, crimson clover, fava beans, and annual grasses. These crops will establish root systems and protect the soil from winter moisture.

Turning the Crops

At the end of winter, when spring planting is just a few weeks away, turn over the winter crop to prepare for spring planting. By turning the crops over, you’ll ensure that there won’t be any springtime cover crops popping up.

Now, with just a little bit of preparation, you're ready for spring planting when the season comes.