Author Topic: how do you dig?  (Read 7087 times)


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how do you dig?
« on: February 17, 2007, 19:04:19 »

Ok it says 'the basics' so i'm asking the basics..... how do you dig? ???  and with what? ??? ???

I've been down the plot alot this week and feel i've got knowhere fast but done alot of work to get there.    Should i be using a spade or a fork?  I've been told that i shouldn't stand on the soil but how  can i dig and not stand on it. , I've tried balancing on a plank of wood but keep falling off stomping onto the soil.

I'm feeling a little over whelmed at the moment and and could really do with some advice  the ground is so wet and so heavy i can't imagine ever having enough time to get the whole plot up to scratch and planted.

many thanks

« Last Edit: February 17, 2007, 19:05:59 by pakaba »
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how do you dig?
« on: February 17, 2007, 19:04:19 »


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2007, 19:14:49 »
Think you will find it will be easier to dig with a fork once the soil as dried out enough for you to get on it. Do not know who told you not to stand on the soil whilst digging but who ever it was is wrong. Unless he/she was advicing you not to get on the soil while it is so wet. Do not worry to much about not having time to get things done because believe me if you love to garden you will soon be on top of things again.
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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2007, 19:15:42 »
Hi pakaba

I always use a fork as I find it easier than a spade but that is just me.  Also have a light weight one as the normal is too heavy for long periods.

I only do a bit at a time then move onto another job and go back to it, and if I feel that it is too much I stop

Hope that helps but will watch so see what others say

Good luck and happing digging / forking  ;D


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2007, 19:19:25 »
Also Pakaba, have a look at the raised bed thread currently on here.  You don't have to have wood surrounds but dividing the plot up into smaller beds which you don't tread on might make it all a bit more manageable.  :)


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2007, 19:34:56 »
I think the best advice anyone can give about digging is to say "buy a good stainless steel spade". It does make the job so much easier. I was taught "barstard digging" which was going down 3 spits deep, then "double digging" 2 spits deep but now I settle for just one good spade depth. I like to spread the compost or whatever over the surface and then with a sharp spade you can turn it in well. You need to open a trench at one end and move the soil to the other end ready to fill the last trench. For my sweetpeas and runner beans I still go 2 spits deep to ensure plenty of moisture for the roots.


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2007, 19:40:09 »
We use a fork here but rarely go below one spit...


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2007, 19:46:38 »
Had heard from my parents about a thing they called a "terrex" spade, and back in November I saw the chap on the next door plot using one. The action of the spade was to just throw the spit forward whilst flipping it over in a single action. He seemed to be flying through the bit he was digging, so I spoke to my parents and they have now given me their old terrex spade.

Well, I must say, having used it a couple of days ago, that even with my dodgy knee I was able to get much more turned over than I would normally achieve.

It does only turn it over though. We still have to go back later and break up the lumps and level it out again, but hopefully another coldsnap will help with the breaking up. I will try to do the digging in the autumn this year, which I was unable to do last year.
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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2007, 19:52:50 »
Last year (my first year) I used string and pegs to mark out 8x4 beds.  I then used a fork just to dig those growing areas and had earth paths between.

I then discovered the plot was infested with Horsetail and by forking I had missed loads of roots that were just waiting for the right moment to spring into action and smother my strawberries etc. :'(  If you are lucky you could get away just with the fork.

This year I am using a border spade and although I will still have 8x4 beds, I am digging over the paths.  This way I have removed a huge amount of root........have to wait til April to see if it's had any effect.  I have found yr 2 digging much easier and quicker (not much help now I know, but you can tell yourself "It'll be easier next year" ;)

With regard to standing on the soil; this time of year I have a plank about 30" from where I am digging.  This just means that I don't get REALLY muddy boots.  Once the area is dug, I try to rake from the edges rather than standing on the soil, although sometimes you need to tramp down to soil to get rid of any air pockets.

I think it depends on preference and conditions.

Hope that helps a bit.


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2007, 23:29:04 »
I dont ;D. According to my other half, I dont do it properly ::) so he is my labourer...

He bought an azada from here last year & loves it. It took him several weekends to skim the turf off & dig over one of my 4ft by 20ft couch grass covered beds last spring with a spade & took him only a couple of hours to do most of the second bed the day after the azada arrived :o


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2007, 00:12:34 »
It don't matter if you stand on the soil prior to being dug. You can work your way backwards as you dig so you don't walk over what you have dug. If you are stuck for time then dig it with a spade. You can always turn it in with a fork when you are ready to plant or sow in the same area. A spade will make you look like you are getting somewhere fast. You can always go over it in slow time to remove anything you need to.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2007, 00:15:20 by ktlawson »
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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2007, 09:29:32 »
I find it faster to use the digging hoe (AKA Azada). The only drawback is that it slices off the roots of anything that goes down deep, so I'd rather use the fork on those. The spade comes out occasionally for things that are so deep-rooted the fork won't shift them. I usually go backwards, except when I'm lifting spuds.


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2007, 10:17:28 »
I don't "dig properly" either.  I am wrenching beds out of my meadow grass/weed new allotment (having covered it with newspaper/cardboard to slow the stuff down or even stifle it) by taking out a great deep cubic lump with a spade (stainless steel, I absolutely agree it is worth it), bashing it to bits and putting the weeds in a sack to rot down.

Then I take out another great cubic lump, bash it to bits and put the weeds in a sack.

Then I take out another great cubic lump, bash it to bits and put the weeds in a sack.

And so on. It must be painful to watch if there is a "proper" digger nearby, and it is slow, but the bed in the end is almost ready to plant into, crumbly and reasonably weed free.  I add soil improvers and fertiliser and seeds/plants. Those weeds that do grow back can be quite easily pulled out because the soil is soft and crumbly.

The reason I do it like this is because over the years I have watched so many people simply turning over their lumps, burying the weeds, and swiftly moving on. They get a lot more done than me, but as they move on down the plot, the couchgrass shimmers green over where they started a few weeks ago, and because the soil is still in hard lumps it cannot be just pulled out. They have to dig it all over again, or often give up and you don't see them again.

I don't do much digging after this first dig - some gentle turning over and raking. Such a treat after the first hard slog.

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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2007, 10:23:04 »
I use an azada too, I've found it brilliant for digging ground that hasn't been dug for a long time. It excels in levering out couch, dock and dandelion roots, you can go deep in one spot to do that. I also concentrate on getting the ground as weed free as possible first.

If your ground is really heavy and wet, I would keep off it until it dries out more. ;D
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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2007, 10:46:59 »
I took on my allotment two years ago and quickly gave up the idea of having it all cultivated straight away.

It was (is?) infested with every type of perennial weed, so I've covered a lot of it and just reclaim a bit more each year.  Even after two years I'm still only cultivating about half of it... but like everyone else has already said, if you do the job properly the first time you save yourself headaches later on.

I've found another advantage to covering sections - As you pull back the carpet / plastic the soil underneath is much dryer and so lighter and easier to turn...

So don't give up.  Set yourself a realistic goal and enjoy it!


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2007, 10:51:04 »
Either way, what ever happens digging is the hard bit. A few people suggested rotavating, but on my plot that hadn't been dug in 20 years it just mashed up the roots and spread the weeds everywhere.
Second thought was to do a small bit at a time as thoroughly as possible - I find that my 2.5m x 1.5m square is the most for a weekend before your arms feel like dropping off. One square a weekend is enough - you'd have the lot sorted in a month or two! :( All I do is use a fork and pull out the major grass and weeds and then give a good hoeing so it's flatter and easier to pick off the smaller weeds left
Shame there's no quick fix.
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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2007, 13:26:58 »
I use a fork Pakaba, just give it a quick turn over as KT says walking backwards will not be a problem because you will be turning over what you have already trod on. I did mine last week and it was very wet  so give it a quick turn and don't get bogged down, everyone has their different ways but believe me this is the easiest in these conditions, happy digging.   ;D ;D ;D


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2007, 14:40:51 »
i use a fork too as I find it much easier than a spade. If you want to dig a hole I guess a spade would be better, but for turning the soil and getting the dreaded couch grass out then my lovely old D handle sharp as hell fork seems to do the job.  ;D
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Happy diggin'!  ;)
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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2007, 16:11:09 »
Hi Pakaba, Hi all,  :)

I use a fork unless I`m digging a hole then I use a spade.
I think it breaks up the clumps and help me get the weeds
out. Some of my plot neighbours use stainless steel spades
but they have much better soil than me and less weeds.

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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2007, 17:41:09 »
I'm like Columbus, a fork for 'forking over' then a spade for digging things out or digging planting holes.  However, that said, I have found when digging and the ground is wet, I get on better with a spade.

I think you will find eventually you will get your own method and digging technique which suits you.  Some people like to dig (ME!), some don't.  I love the look of a freshly turned bed all chunky and clear.  The fork is very good at smashing down those chunks once the sun and wind have been on them and dried them out.


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Re: how do you dig?
« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2007, 18:58:48 »
I do very little digging really (thats what worms are for) I skim and turn green manure and just dump compost on the surface.

Have a look at the Methods of Cultivation section on the A4A Wiki pages. They have lots of tips on ways of avoiding hard work!
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