Clods in Garden Soil are OK

Why leave the large, upturned clods of soil in vegetable and annual beds that are replanted every spring, rather than breaking them up?

  1. 1. The freeze/thaw cycles of winter are much more effective than shovels at breaking up soil.
  2. Large clods are far less likely to erode or blow away than fine soils. 
  3. Irregular clumps are better at capturing snow and rainfall. 
  4. While the weight of moisture, in the form of rain or snow, tends to press loose soil down over the winter months, clods are far less likely to be compacted by moisture.
  5. Turning the soil over brings to the surface grubs and other undesirable pests that live in the top soil where birds can get them. 
  6. Garden tillers tend to dig less deep than shovels.
  7. Tillers tend to break soil into powdery dust, destroying the soil desirable structure and potentially creating a layer of hard pan just below the blades. 
  8. Loosely turned soils tend to dry out and become workable earlier in the spring than compacted soils, allowing earlier access to the garden without damaging soils. 
  9. Leaving the clods unmulched intensifies the freeze/thaw effect, but Nosal said they do mulch after turning the soil, simply because “it works out better for us to apply the material during large volunteer events.”
  10. A further bonus of leaving a rough, uneven garden surface is that people are far less likely to walk through it, making it less likely to be compacted by foot traffic.


Thanks to the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum


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