Garden Site Preparation – Digging

All hardy with the possible exception of figs, need to have the deeply dug and thoroughly prepared. With shallow soils it is almost impossible to grow good fruit over a number of years unless the subsoil is well broken up. Deep digging should not be carried out close to the roots of any fruit bushes or trees after planting. Soft fruits are surface rooting and much harm is done by digging too near the roots. The sites must therefore be thoroughly prepared before planting and all perennial weeds removed. The land should be well drained and there should never be stagnant water on the site.

The types of soil suit individual fruits are referred to in the text; where the soil is not of a type likely to be suitable, efforts should be made to improve it when the ground is first dug and prepared, but no manure should be in contact with the roots at planting.

Digging one spit deep. This consists of breaking up the soil to the depth of a spade or a fork. A is taken out and the soil from the next strip is turned over into the trench.

If manure is to be applied it is a good plan to spread it over the ground to be dug to ensure even distribution, leaving the breadth of the first spade-cut clear of manure. When the strip has been dug and the soil removed, the manure from the next strip to the width of a spade should be placed in the trench, laying it on the sloping surface. Then the next strip of soil should be turned over into the trench, burying the manure, which is evenly distributed in the soil from the bottom of the trench almost to the surface.

Double-digging cultivated ground. Divide the plot into two, and mark out the boundary and dividing lines with a spade; then take out a trench, 2 feet (60 cm.) wide, and with vertical sides, to the depth of the spade at the end of one half of the plot. The soil should be placed at the same end of the plot, but opposite the other half, where it will be ready to fill in the last trench. Then break up the bottom of the trench to the full depth of a fork. Take care to break up the soil in the middle and the sides of the trench. Next, a second strip of exactly the same width should be marked off, and for this purpose it is a good plan to keep a stick cut to the right length at each side of the ground which is being trenched. Put the line across at the end of your sticks to mark how broad the next trench is to be. Then take out the second trench, placing the soil from it on to the broken-up bottom of the first trench. A trench 2 feet (60 cm.) wide can be conveniently worked in three spits. Each time the first of the three spits to be moved should be the one farthest from the trench which is being filled in, and it should be placed so that it forms a good wall to the second trench. Then the second and third spits may be removed. The second trench, like the first, should be to the full depth of a spade before the bottom is broken up. To do this, it will be necessary to remove the ‘crumbs’ from the second trench with a shovel. When this has been done, the bottom of the second trench is broken up with a fork, and filled with the soil from the third and so on.

When manure is to be applied in double-digging, it should be spread over the broken-up bottom of the trench, and forked into the loose soil there. The manure may be spread over the ground in the same way as for single-digging, but each time before a top strip of soil is moved into the trench the manure is transferred to the broken-up bottom of the trench.

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