Dig Life into Your Soil

I was recently photographed (and soon to be interviewed) for a forthcoming feature in the Mail on Sunday entitled ‘Digging Life into your Soil’. At first I thought – well, how much can be said on the subject of digging? But then when I thought about it I realised that not only is there much to be said, but it’s also one of the most important points in any vegetable garden. I also found, to my horror, that I hadn’t really touched on the subject here at mtp. Surely a travesty. The only reference I could find was this short post on ‘Bastard Trenching’.
I know everyone has a different digging regime but here at mtp it usually goes a little like this. Around, September time when a few beds start to be emptied I throw in some green manure seeds. I usually go for something quick like Mustard (I’ve heard so many scary stories about how other manures are difficult to get rid of). I give it about two or three weeks then I dig it in, chopping it as I go. This usually leaves some green matter on the surface which I cover with a layer of either manure or compost. In a few weeks the whole lot will have disappeared below ground – thanks to the worms.
Bastard Trenching seems to be a great way to prepare any bed used for cutting flowers. Layering the manure under a spit of soil forces me to cultivate the soil quite deeply and means that the goodness is securely locked underground waiting for Spring.
On the rest of the plot I alternate between digging in manure, or compost depending on what I plan to grow in each bed. I usually don’t dig in lime until the Spring as there’s less chance it will be washed away in the rains. We have two wood fires at home and so produce a lot of wood ash. If there is room I add this to the compost bin. However, in mid winter when the composting really slows down I either throw the ash on the ground where I plan to grown onions or I start a wood ash pile, or collect it in a bucket.
One of the soil cultivation methods that I haven’t tried is the ‘no dig’ method. At this time of year, I’m so eager to get out there and ‘do’ something in the garden (anything!) that I can’t resist digging. Maybe when I’m older and find digging difficult then I will adopt this method. But until then I am totally addicted to digging. .
So, don’t forget if you see a photo of a pregnant woman digging and smiling like an idiot, while trying not to stick her bum out at an awkward angle – don’t choke on your cereal – it’s just me.
Oh and I’d love to hear about your digging regimes.

5 Comments on “Dig Life into Your Soil

  1. Happy New Year!

    My plot in Chippenham’s really clayey, so I’m spending lots of time rough digging in the autumn using my lovely terrex autospade (saves a lot of backache), so that any frost we get can break the clods down. I spread a layer of compost or muck on the top, depending on what’s going to be grown there the next year and let the worms do the work over the winter. I don’t rotovate in the spring (too much couch and bindwind to spread around if I do that) and end up nearly crying in frustration with how hard the ground is to dig, especially when planting potatoes. However, each year is getting marginally easier :-)

    Last year’s digging was awful as the dry spring turned the plots to concrete. Ruthie 2 plots up from me was breaking up massive clods with her bare hands to try and get something a bit more friable covering up her spuds.

    I also use green manures on post harvest patches. I prefer phacelia as it has attractive lilac flowers, which the bees love. Fred, 4 plots up complained once that he’d not seen many bees that year – I think I nicked pretty well the lot as there were plenty on my patch!

  2. PS Congratulations on your new found celebrity – I look forward to reading the results!

  3. I think digging is only really important if you are digging something in or have hard soil. Our beds are filled mostly with garden compost, sand and manure. The soil is so light that it doesn’t really need digging over as it isn’t walked on. I added horse and cow manure at 2 different times this winter and dug in the top layer yesterday. The green manure will follow. Won’t say anymore as this is pretty much what i was gonna post this week! Happy digging !

  4. Nice one Gill – Unfortunately, I cannot get the Mail on Sunday (or at least I will not pay the prices the news agents want to charge here in France) so I hope it will be on their website?

    I will also recommend the ‘no dig’ method. All of my borders in the uk were pretty much maintained on a no dig regime.

    I would hand pull weeds and mulch a lot. I also tried to merge plants to reduce light at the roots.

    I also have a no dig regime here in France – the reason being I am yet to form anything to dig lol!

    That will change one day though and I am looking forward to getting the veg patch going again as the weather warms up.




  5. Congrats on your article. Just found your blog through top100 gardening sites. I really am surprised I haven’t found you before. Nice photos.