When you are preparing your garden for the growing season, it is a good idea to dig over your plot. The reason for this is remove weeds (particularly those irritating perennials), to improve soil structure and to work in organic material (such as manure and/or home made compost). The best time for digging is in the autumn, before it has become too damp and before the frost has set in.
There are a number of options for preparing your plot:
Single Dig Method
The single dig method is good for incorporating organic matter into the soil and suitable for most plots.
- First dig out a trench at one end of your plot to one spade’s depth and about 30cm wide. Pile up the soil that you have dug out outside of your plot.
- Now dig another trench alongside the first one digging the soil from the second trench into the first one. Repeat working your way back through your plot.
- Once you reach the end of your plot, pile up the soil from the first trench into a wheelbarrow and transport it to the other end of the plot to fill your final trench.
Double Dig Method
This requires considerably more work than the single dig method but is worth it your drainage is poor or the soil has not previously been cultivated.
- First dig out a trench to two spades depth along one end of your plot. As in the single dig method you will need to remove your soil from the trench and set aside. However, the difference this time is that you are digging down into the subsoil, so as you remove the soil you need to separate out the layers into piles of top soil and subsoil.
- Then you need to dig a second trench to ONE spade’s depth alongside the first, removing the top soil into another separate pile. You can then dig the subsoil from the bottom of the second trench into the bottom of the first.
- Continue working your way back through your plot until you reach the end. Then fill the final trench with the soil from the first ensuring that the layers of soil are deposited where they should be.
Simple Dig Method
This is considerably easier than the two methods described previously, but does not turn over the soil as thoroughly. All you do is simply dig to a spade’s depth and turn it over in its original position.
No Dig Method
Before you start you need to make sure that your soil is weed free. Then you simply scatter manure over the surface of the soil and leave it there. Over the winter the worms and the weather will work to bring the manure down into the soil and break it up.
Which you choose is a matter of personal preference and depending upon your soil type. My personal preference is the single dig method as my soil is quite well drained. I have used the simple dig method, but I tend to find that this does not break up the soil as well. Also my plot is rather full of perennial weeds so the single dig method is good for getting these out.
I live on the East coast of England in rural Lincolnshire with my wife and two children, a few chickens, two goats, two geese, six cats and two pet rats. I like to share my experiences of growing vegetables and fruit, keeping our assorted animals, recipes, book reviews and pretty much anything else related to self-sufficiency and rural living.