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Spade

This week it’s been perfect weather for digging and I have been on my allotment making the most of it, digging can be hard work but it is also very satisfying looking at a newly dug and prepared bed ready for planting. The soil has dried out from the recent floods helped by the wind and the frosts, I was pleasantly surprised how many worms there were, I wasn’t sure whether they would survive beneath the flood water.

One of the most important jobs in the garden is to improve and maintain the quality of your soil, the key way to do this is to add or dig in organic material such as rotted garden/kitchen compost from your Compost Bin or well-rotted farmyard manure which has been allowed to stand for at least six months.

Before digging clear the site of weeds and large stones, as well as any roots whilst you dig, there are different methods of digging:

No Dig Method

Weed the soil, in late Autumn spread compost/manure over the surface, the worms will work it into the soil, more compost/manure can be added during the growing season.

Simple Digging

Weed the soil, push in your spade, lift the soil, turn it and drop it back in its original position, breaking up any large lumps with the edge of your spade, a layer of organic matter can then be added to the surface which the worms will incorporate or can be forked/raked in when you prepare your bed for sowing/planting, alternatively a layer of compost can be put on the soil after weeding which will be incorporated as you dig.

Single Digging

Weed the soil, and dig a trench across your bed to a spades depth and about 30cm wide, put the soil you have removed aside this will be used at the end to fill the last trench. Fill the bottom of the trench with compost/manure, working backwards dig another trench placing the soil on top of the compost/manure in the first trench, repeat this process until you get the end of your bed, fill the last trench with the soil that you set aside from the first trench.

Double Digging

With double digging the soil is worked to the depth of two spades, breaking up the sub soil, this will improve drainage and is useful on a new plot or when deep beds are being prepared. Weed and dig a trench as with single digging putting the soil removed aside, add compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and dig in to a spades depth, add another layer of compost/manure on top then working backwards dig another trench placing the soil on top of the compost/manure in the first trench repeat this process and fill in the last trench with soil removed from the first trench.

The best time to dig heavy soil is in the Autumn this will allow the frost and rain to break it down, light and sandy soils are best left until the spring, fork in a general purpose fertiliser prior to sowing/planting and break up any lumps of soil with a fork/rake.

Not everyone enjoys or is able to dig, growing crops in Raised Beds is the perfect solution, crops can be easily planted, tended, watered and harvested without standing on the soil thus eliminating the need to dig, all that is required is to weed, and lightly fork in compost or fertiliser with a Hand Fork in Spring or apply a mulch of compost/manure in Autumn which the worms will gradually work into the soil.

I find digging with a spade hard work as it is quite heavy, I use a border fork which is slightly smaller than a standard fork, although I can only dig smaller ‘spadefuls’ at a time and it may take a little longer I find it a lot easier and there is less strain on my back.

I shall be continuing my digging at the weekend as it is a good forecast, if you get chance get out in the garden and enjoy the dry weather

Happy digging

Gill

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