· Choose a spade
which is suited to your height and strength. Keep
the blade clean.
· Choose the right day. The ground must
be neither frozen nor saturated. If possible pick
a time of settled weather when rain is not forecast
for at least a few hours.
· Begin slowly. About 30 minutes is quite
enough for the first day if you are not used to
· Insert the blade vertically, not at an
angle. Annual weeds can be turned in but roots
of perennial weeds should be removed.
· Leave the soil in lumps – frost
will break down the clods during winter.
· Never bring subsoil to the surface –
raw clay, chalk or sand will ruin the fertility.
Don’t try to dig and make a seed bed in
one operation. The time for digging is during
a dry spell in late autumn or early winter if
you plan to sow or plant in spring. Dig out a
trench about 1 ½ ft (45cm) wide and 1 spit
(spade-depth) deep at the front of the plot and
transport the soil to the back.
Spread compost over the surface of the area to
be enriched with humus (see ‘crop rotation’).
Now begin to dig the plot – invert a 4-6in
(10-15cm) wide strip of soil into the trench in
front. Move back, turning over each successive
strip until a final trench is formed. Fill this
with the soil brought over from the first trench.
Once every 3 years it is wise to carry out double
digging in order to break up the compacted layer
which may have formed below the depth of digging.
This calls for forking over the bottom of each
trench with a garden fork before turning over
the soil from the adjacent strip.