'Dig for Victory' before Spring

Digging can be hard work but the benefits to your garden, not to mention to your own fitness, make it all worthwhile. Good healthy soil is full of life and high levels of organic matter. Digging aerates the soil and encourages bacterial activity which helps brake down organic matter and nourish plants. Digging also helps to crumble large clods of soil by exposing them to the elements and makes it easier for plant roots to penetrate deeper into the garden.

Birds benefit too as digging gives them access to your unwanted insect pests and weed seeds. It enables you to remove the roots of perennial weeds such as dock, bind weed, dandelion, thistle and couch grass. Above all, digging provides the opportunity to makes the most of your compost by combining it with the soil at a depth that’s best for your plants.

How deep to dig?
The three traditional ways of digging are forking, single digging and double digging. If you already have good loamy soil, a light forking over to remove weeds and aerate the soil may be all that’s required. Spread a good quality general purpose compost such as Black Gold on the surface first so that it is dug in during the forking and weeding process. 

Single digging means digging the soil to a spade’s depth known as a ‘spit’. Digging a series of parallel trenches is a methodical approach that ensures you do not miss any part of the garden. Start at one end by digging a trench across the area to be dug, wheel barrowing the soil to the other end of the patch.

Place some compost or rotted farmyard manure in the bottom of the trench. Dig a parallel trench and fill the first trench with soil from the second, removing any weeds as you go. Lightly fork it over to mix the soil and compost. Use soil from the third trench to fill the second and so on. Repeat this process the length of the plot you are digging. The final trench will be filled with the soil from the first trench you dug. 

Double digging is simply a matter of going down a little deeper. After digging your trench, fork over the soil at the bottom of the trench. Add your compost on top, fill the trench will soil from the adjacent trench and mix the two together with your fork. If you have a heavy clay soil, it is a good idea to add GroWise Lime or a soil improver such as Black Gold at this stage to help break it down.

After digging, leave the soil to settle for 5-6 weeks before planting.

If your garden has a high density of perennial plants, a lighter forking over of the topsoil is all that’s required. Place a 2-4” thick layer of compost on top and dig in where possible without disturbing plant roots, removing any weeds as you go. Finish off with a layer of mulch such as Growise Superfine Bark to retard weed growth and retain moisture in the soil.

Invest in quality compost and spend a few hours of your time now preparing the garden. Come spring you’ll have victory over weeds … and have stolen a march on your neighbours.

25th February 2016

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