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Using Garden Tools - How to Dig and fork

Digging and forking your ground using garden spades and forks

42 DIGGING TO BREAK UP THE SOIL.
Digging improves soil drainage and helps the roots of plants to penetrate more deeply.
If possible, dig in autumn so that winter frosts can break the soil down further.
If your soil is very heavy, avoid digging when it is wet, as treading on it will compress it and affect drainage.

STRAIGHTFORWARD SINGLE DIGGING.
Digging to just one spade’s depth, or single digging, is adequate for most purposes; it does not disturb the subsoil, and can be done on ground which has been previously cultivated to a greater depth.
First dig a trench about 10in wide and take the soil to the far end of the bed; this will be used later to fill in the last trench you dig.
Skim off any surface weeds as you go, and place them upside down in the bottom of the trenches, but remove the roots of any perennial weeds.
Add a layer of manure or garden compost to the sloping face of the soil you have just dug out.
Dig out the next trench, placing the soil, upside-down, in the initial trench, and add the compost or manure.
Continue digging and filling in trenches in the same way until you have dug over the entire plot.

DO YOU NEED A DOUBLE DIG?
Double digging is time and labour-consuming, and only worth considering if you are starting a new border for long-term planting from scratch, and the soil id seep to begin with.
The principles are much the same as for single digging, but the trench cut is twice as deep and wide.

WHEN TO FORK.
If your ground is heavy or stony, dig with a trench fork – with wide, flat prongs and a strong, reinforced shaft – instead of a spade.
In spring, when the soil starts to dry and clods break down easily, use a border fork for soil which was dug in autumn, removing any remaining perennial weeds.

See our section on Garden Tools for purchasing spades and forks online

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