Condition and prepare your soil for planting
Garden work should begin after harvesting in the fall. Tilling in the fall will improve your soil and save you a lot of extra work in the spring.
Till up all left over (disease free) plant material. Leaving old plants to die over winter can encourage bugs and diseases that will affect the quality of the soil. Disease free corn stalks and tomato plants make a great addition to your compost pile.
Spread and till in some compost and gypsum for clay & hardpan soil. Finishing up with a layer of mulch made from grass clippings and leaves is a great idea.
Garden work should begin when a lump of soil squeezed in the hand is dry enough to fall apart slowly.
If you would like to test the soil for nutrient content, do so before tilling. You can get soil testing kit from your local nursery or give them a sample to test for PH and nutrient levels. The PH should be between 5.5 and 7.5. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium should be high.
Spread steer manure and compost on the garden and till it in, spread on asparagus and rhubarb beds also.
For hardpan or clay soil, like I have, use Gypsum. It loosens the clay soil and improves drainage. It doesn't work overnight, but after a few years you can really tell the difference.
'Broadcast fertilize' soil with a 10-10-10 fertilizer (10% each of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash)...meaning spread it to entire garden with a pellet spreader and till it in. As the growing season goes on and the plants have used up nutrients it is time for a boost called a ''Side Dressing'. Use the same fertilizer, but this time hoe a 4" trench down one side of a row, put fertilizer in the trench cover with dirt and water. I like to use fertilizer spikes for my tomatoes. I bury the spikes when I transplant the tomatoes into the garden.