When to work the soil
Well-prepared garden beds make the difference between a fruitful and meager harvest. However, heading out too early to get your beds turned can do damage to your soil structure and harvests for a season or more.
How can you tell whether your garden has dried out enough to be worked? The truest test of soil condition is that age-old gesture of the gardener— fingering a handful of soil.
The Soil Feel Test Pick up about half a cup of earth in your hand. Now squeeze the soil together so that it forms a ball. If the ball of earth can readily be shattered by pressing with your fingers or dropping it from a height of 3 feet or so, it is dry enough to dig. If the ball keeps its shape or breaks only with difficulty into solid sections rather than loose soil, it still contains too much water. Clay soil that is too wet will feel slick when rubbed between thumb and forefinger. If it is very wet (75 to 100 percent moisture), the mass will be pliable, and a ribbon of earth can be drawn out and pressed with your finger. Working soil that wet can spoil its texture for the whole season.
Letting the Soil Dry Out If the soil feel test fails due to wetness, check back in a few days or a week past any rain. Leave any cover crops in the plot since their presence will speed up the drying out process.