What is digging?
Digging in gardening is equivalent to ploughing in agriculture. Soil digging is the most essential and primary activity of land preparation for gardening. Good digging makes the soil porous, improves the drainage, and removes obstacles from the plant's roots. All hard objects such as boulders, stones, roots of trees, etc. weeds, as far as possible should be removed after digging.
Digging may be simple digging, double digging or deep trenching. Let's have a look at these digging techniques in detail to understand how to dig a garden:
- In simple digging soil is dug with a spade, turning it inside out, without removing it from the bed. Remember that in digging soil which is richest, and the best should remain at the top i.e. 20-25 cm (8-10 in.)
- Small stones in the soil may be retained during simple digging as they help in drainage and also keep the root system cool. The roots of the plant are not obstructed by the stones as they can bypass them. In the case of seedbeds sieving of soil is advised as the root system of seedlings are delicate.
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Double digging and trenching:
- In double digging (one spit digging), the width of the bed is usually divided into strips of 40-60 cm (1.5 to 2 ft). The depth to which soil is dug depends on the requirement of the plant.
- The soil is dug first up to one spit. The topsoil of 20-25 cm is removed outside the bed.
- The bed is then further dug up to another spit (20 cm) for two spit digging.
- All big stones, metal pieces, hard fibres, etc. are removed. Earth lumps are broken.
- At the bottom of the second spit 5-7 cm (2-3 in) layer of small stones and gravel, grass, leaves, etc. is added to improve drainage. It is manured and mixed thoroughly with the soil.
- The second trench is then dug one spit deep, and topsoil of this trench is transferred to the first trench.
- Second spit depth is dug and prepared as in the first trench.
- The topsoil of the first trench is transferred to the second trench. This way, double digging or trenching is then complete.
- If the bed is divided into more than two strips, the process is repeated further with the modification that topsoil of the first strip is transferred to the last strip.
- In similar manner triple digging or deep trenching can also be done where top 2 layers of soil are removed and transferred to adjacent strips.
When to dig soil?
- Simple digging of entire garden soil should be done every year in late summer before the monsoon season begins.
- Simple digging of the vegetable garden is done after the end of every season before sowing or plantation of the new crop.
- Double digging of the garden should be done after few years (3-4 years) to maintain the drainage of a land in the summer season.
- Deep trenching is done at the patches of the garden where drainage is severely damaged. It is usually a one-time activity done to fix the drainage of that land.
- Trenching is also done during the development of ambitious landscaping project like theme parks.
- After the soil is prepared by digging or trenching, it should be levelled with a wooden beam. All garden plants benefit by firming the soil with a light roller. Raised beds or ridges and furrows can be made for the vegetable garden.
Soil digging tools:
For the regular home garden, having good quality hand tools is essential for soil digging. Spade, hoe, digging fork, and even shower and hand rake play their part in soil digging activities.