Compost and Basic Stuff
No way around it. Tilling is WORK!!! But, this Work saves much other work later on. Plus, the alternative is SHOVELLING!!! That's a lot more work than tilling. Still, if you can get a reliable "plow boy", by all means DO IT!
If you decide to do this yourself, like I have, use a REAR-TINE tiller! This kind of tiller won't dig to China, vibrate your arms off, etc. As for "One-Hand Guidance", as a major maker of red rear-tine tillers suggests, you can do it if your land is almost flat with no variations underground. If it's not, be prepared to grab that horse with both hands and force it to go where you want. It's still a lot easier than a front tine tiller.
I can't even suggest a front-tine tiller. They're sheer torture! They instantly find the lowest point in the ground and make it lower. (As in, dig to China!) They are also prone to take off "like a rocket sled on rails" for no apparant reason. Hope there weren't any perennials in the way!!! If you have one of these, SELL IT. And hire a plow boy.
It's best to till on the slowest speed. This will get the ground really fine and professional looking. Then hit it again in two weeks. This will allow all those little weed seeds you brought up the first time, time to sprout. Then KILL the little weenies with the second plowing. This should give you 2-3 weeks completely weed-free and maybe 4. Wait another week for the ground to settle before you plant.
Weeds like somewhat compressed Earth to sprout in. If you make a footprint, expect to weed it! Raking will not restore a footprint to the truly fine texture tilling gives. Unfortunately, it's Tough--unless you can hover!
Whether you do any weeding before the seedlings can withstand Preen [about when they have 2 sets of true leaves] (the ones that look like regular adult plant leaves) is up to you. I choose to ignore 'em until I can put the Preen down. One warning: The longer you wait, the more careful you have to be to not pull up any desired plants, since the roots tend to intertwine. Since the seedlings won't be blooming yet anyway, though, the presence of some weeds is only a problem in the mind of the gardener! Just be careful when you get around to weeding and the plants you want will be fine.
Taking off dead blooms:
Fuhgeddaboutit!!! That's right, forget about it! Deadheading (removing dead blooms) is another made-up form of work you don't really need to do! Gardeners have repeated the baloney about "needing to get rid of dead blooms" so much a lot of professionals believe it wholeheartedly. But it's WRONG!!! There is no need to get out there daily or weekly and deadhead old blooms.
The mantra says, "if you don't get rid of old blooms the plants won't bloom as much." What they have FORGOTTEN is it takes at least a month or 2 of blooming at full crank before this effect can be seen on every plant I have ever had in my garden! The only benefit to deadheading before this happens is in the gardener's mind.
Remember, if you've Earned your beautiful garden, you've Worked TOO MUCH!!! A beautiful garden is a GIFT from the Earth. Enjoy it!
Avoiding Gardening Work
The Preen Page
Compost and other Basics
The Obligatory Rose Page