How to Prepare an Area for Planting

Soil preparation is important to ensure that the plants will establish quickly and continue to thrive against insects and diseases. Loosened soil that is amended with organic matter encourages root growth and enables plants to obtain water and nutrients, ensuring plant health and maximum growth. Because it decomposes as it enriches the soil, annual additions of 3 inches of organic matter to soil are recommended to keep soil loose, friable (crumbly), and nutrient rich.

Materials Required:

  • Organic matter (compost, manure, soil builder, Sea Soil ™, etc.)
  • Fork or Rotary tiller
  • Spade or shovel
  • Rake
  • Edger
  • Hose, rope, string, or stakes


  1. Mark the area using a hose, rope, string, or stakes to outline the shape of the bed. 
  2. Cut around the outline with an edger and clear the area of grass and weeds. If the area has sod, slide a flat spade under the sod to break it away from the soil. While pulling up the sod, shake it to remove as much soil as possible.
  3. Loosen the soil to a depth of 15 cm (6 inches).
    1. For small areas, turn the soil with a fork to break it up and work out the clumps.
    2. For large areas, use a rotary tiller. Ensure that the soil is evenly moist; excessive dryness/moisture will cause the soil to become damaged and compacted.
  4. A layer of at least 10 cm or 4 inches deep is recommended for the plants to grow and thrive. Calculate the amount of organic matter you will require using the following formula:
length of area (feet) X width of area (feet) X depth (inches)      =  ______ cubic feet
A 30L bag will cover approximately 1 cubic foot.
A self-serve bag will cover approximately 6 cubic feet. 
Note: if you require 27 bags or more, it may be beneficial to have them delivered.
*To convert cubic feet to cubic yards, divide the number of cubic feet by 27.
  1. Amend the soil by working the organic matter into the loosened earth.
  2. Level the area. Remove all rocks and use the rake to smooth the area, breaking up clumps of soil.