Preparing the Garden

You can till the ground as soon as it is ready in the early Spring or late Winter, but if the weather is still cold and wet any seeds may not germinate.  Tilling the soil when it’s too wet or dry will destroy the soil structure and kill beneficial microbes.  Be careful when using a rototiller as it’s easy to over till and destroy the soil structure this way.  To test the soil, grab a handful and squeeze it into a ball, then poke it with a finger.  If it doesn’t hold a ball it’s likely to be too dry, if the ball does not fall apart when poked it’s likely to be too wet to till.  If you have cover crops to turn in, the best time is when they are in ¾ bloom.  Till under with a rototiller or use a shovel to cut and turn the green cover crop.  Allow the cover crop to break down for 1-2 weeks depending on the soil temperature. It will need to be watered in to break down.  

Use the chart below as a guide for amending your soil.  The Biointensive Sustainable Mini-Farming Handbook gives more details on preparing your garden.   

A Rough Guide for Amending Soils in the Klamath-Trinity Region

Add every 2-5 years:




LB/ 100 ft2

LB/ acre


Mined limestone or oyster shell flour

2-5 LB

1,000 - 2,000 LB


soft rock colloidal phosphate

2-3 LB

500 - 1,000 LB

Add every year (choose one, or combine):



Nitrogen, choose one:


4 LB

500-1,000 LB


6 LB

750 - 1,000 LB

cottonseed meal

8 LB

1,000 - 2000 LB

alfalfa meal

5 LB

500 - 1,000 LB

composted chicken manure

25 LB

10 yards/ acre

Organic Matter

compost, cover cropping, mulching



Biointensive Sustainable Min-Farming is an intensive method of food-growing that uses a small area to produce high yields, while building soil and minimizing water, organic fertilizer, and biological pesticide use. It attends to the long-term sustainability of farmland, so that food can be produced generation after generation.  This mini-handbook by Margo Royo-Miller is an excellent introduction to the Biointensive method, with lots of basic info on soil preparation, composting, carbon farming and companion planting.  

More Links & References


Extending the Season