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Q: I have, over many years of gardening used a garden claw tool to loosen the topsoil between plants in my beds to, in my mind, make it inhospitable for weeds, let water penetrate and to make the bare patches look nice. Recently, I was told that one should not disturb the topsoil except to root out weeds or plant something, because I would negatively impact the underlying soil structure. What is the recommended approach to dealing with bare patches in a garden?
Keep soil cultivation near plants shallow so as not injure plant roots. You will less likely bring up new seed weeds to the soil surface. Soil ecology is healthier by not disturbing your underground microbial organisms, e.g. earthworms, beneficial fungi, protozoa, insects, etc.