There are many advantages in clearing off and plowing the vegetable-garden in autumn in all parts of the Union, but specially in the prairie States. The fining of the soil by winter frosts is a great gain in the North, and the action of the frost seems to be fatal to the destructive cutworms when rolled by the plow from their winter quarters. In the prairie States the different cutworms are often so numerous on ground not plowed in the fall that it is difficult to save a tomato, strawberry, or other plant set out in the spring. But on fall plowing we rarely find traces of their mischief.
With a light surface cultivation prior to planting the moisture is retained below while the surface is mellow and in fine condition for seed covering or transplanting. Even where the soil is quite heavy and inclined to be lumpy when spring plowed, the exposure of fall plowing to the frosts, rains, and snow melting of winter fines it for spring culture, and the particles are ready to deliver up their plant-food for the use of growing plants. If not fall plowed, the spring plowing should not be as deep and it should be performed as early as possible. Deep spring plowing leaves too great a depth with air-spaces not favorable for capillary attraction or presenting a proper seed-bed, nor for root extension. On rather heavy soil, with slope favorable for washing, subsoiling garden-ground is a decided gain in several ways. The pressure of the plow and the tread of the animal below the furrow so impacts the soil at the bottom of the usual plowing that in a few years the water from heavy-rains cannot quickly penetrate it, giving rise to gullying and washing away of the finer particles of soil to lower levels. It not only holds the rainfall, and largely prevents washing, but it gives a depth of soil that favors carrying plants through or summer periods of drought. Subsoiling also gives best results if done in autumn. If done in spring, it leaves the soil loose and porous to too great a depth. Hence plants will suffer in a dry time far more than on ordinary plowing.
The deep extension of roots also favors the growth of plants in a dry time in the subsoiled garden. Subsoiling and deep plowing in the fall also benefit crops by letting air into the soil that tends to set free the food for plants by chemical action and fermentation.