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Talkback: How to dig beds in winter

This is not a good idea. It is hard work, unnecessary and will kill a lot of worms.

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This is not a good idea. It is hard work, unnecessary and will kill a lot of worms.

It's useful for getting the menfolk out of the house, and out from under their wives feet.

However,  being female, I have never double dug. I usually just fork the soil over, enough to tickle in any compost or FYM.


Not sure I entirely agree with you AEH. Previously uncultivated soil should be dug to remove perennial weeds etc, as should heavily compacted soil. However I do agree that a well looked after bed does not need winter digging, compost can just be added to the top and the worms will do the rest.

There are areas of my garden where I bitterly regret not having dug them over properly before I started planting. They are now plagued by perennial weeds which I never quite get on top of.

Yes, agree with punkdoc.  Dig it thoroughly first, get plenty of compost or manure in and then top dress the soil annually.  Without that first dig the ground will forever be a challenging foe.  

I agree to with punkdoc and Verdun. I'm so pleased I double dug veg and flower beds first before planting. It was so hard work but with a layer of compost, muck or mulch each Autumn the beds now have loads of worms in and look like black gold in all but the hottest summers and weeds pull out so easy...

Digging in Winter though isn't a good plan, best done in the Autumn or Spring.  


Unfortunatly for us, we have recently moved into a house where the rear garden (in talking to the neighbours) hasn't been worked, at all!!!! in 12 years. All the borders had regrown grass and are heavily compacted. I don't suppose all you folks who don't dig your borders have a spare afternoon do you?


gold cup week  suits me

I thought you didn't need to dig raised beds as they are not walked on. I just put horse manure on top in late autumn

Well, we did dig over our former cow pasture to remove major weeds and then we covered it with black plastic for a year but such is its fertility and its proximity to neighbouring pasture that thistes, nettles, couch grass and creeping buttercup just laughed at us and came back.

They now get nuked or forked out depending on location and surrounding plants but I can guarantee that just a few weeks later there will be nettles and couch grass and creeping buttercup coming back and fresh crops of groundsel and bittercress and dandelions.

It's a constant battle as they grow faster than so called ground cover, weed suppressing perennials.   Makes for a lot of compost though and that goes on the veggie beds and new beds.   We never dig the raised beds.  At best the, ones along the boundary get forked over to remove couch grass before I plant up in spring.


Peat B

I am slowly doing away with the need for a compost heap, by gradually digging in the kitchen waste into a trench, bit by bit. Eventually the plot is being raised inch by inch, improving the drainage and fibre build up. The only thing I DON'T dig in is citrus  peel and mush.

I gather leaves from the roadsides, bag 'em up and let'em rot for a year, then dig THEM in or just let 'em lie on the surface, and til them in as and when.I seldom dig more than 1/2 a spit deep, and the frost, rain and weather does the rest. Lazy bugger, ain't I ? !


I didn't find double digging too bad as a female and that was clay in November. Didn't see many dead worms, but did see an awful lot of worms  Robin had a few, though out of the thousands in the ground I doubt it upset anything. The key is simply to do a little bit each day, don't try to lift to much in one go and enjoy the exercise.

I don't think with our clay I would have much of a veg plot without a few years of double digging at least. I will add well rotted compost too and cultivate it over in the spring. I would never get rid of the compost heaps, dual purpose, we have grass snakes lay their eggs in them and I think they would get very annoyed with me if I stopped composting. 

I've never heard wiser words than you can't take out what you don't put in - so digging in a lot of manure is my way to get the plot in shape. I don't think there is anything wrong with throwing organic material straight on top either, it is all good in the end.

I have grown veg in the past in raised permaculture beds, both ways seem to work so each to their own. But filling up the beds each year wasn't all that much less work than just digging it all over. Did my bad back the world of good too double digging this year, if somewhat counter intuitive I have been much more mobile and in less pain after double digging half the plot this year.  I remember this day last year, struggling to walk 40 feet to the remnants of our old wildlife pond. Now I'm back to doing five mile walks without discomfort and that pond is now renovated and ready for its first spring.  All hard work, all immensely satisfying.

One thing I would say though, there is nothing wrong in one season of simply cultivating it over, putting on compost and running a cultivator over again. Start growing stuff for a season before the double dig. I think potatoes go a long way to break it all up as do the root crops. Weeding the first year meant plenty of hoe work, but the annoying weeds like mallow were easy to identify and remove root and all in the Autumn dig. I just let them grow a bit once the onions were up and it was very easy to identify them and get each one out.


Is that really less work than putting everything in a compost heap, stirring it with a strong stick once and week and turning it once when it's half-made, then spreading it on the veg patch for the worms to drag down?

Particularly when you consider that when the vegetable waste is breaking down in your trench it'll use up nitrogen from the surrounding soil for quite a while.  I don't have a large enough veg patch to leave areas fallow for a season. 

I love my compost heaps


I get the material at the wrong times to put it straight on the plot, can't see how one can do it if there is veg in most of the time and like you Dove I don't have plans for a fallow part of the plot. I lot of the material that went to the heaps this year was soil with weed roots too, by the time it's finished they will be a distant memory. 

I agree whole heartedly with you Punkdoc.  Work at the beginning on the soil; no shortcuts pays dividends.


Fun seeing this thread as I have creating new beds at the allottment 

Paths covered with bark Chipping's , so I do not walk on the beds after the second dig but no double digging , most of the soil is nice and loamy

Also cover beds with horse manure to over winter and keep the weeds down

Happy digging

I don't dig as such, I use an azada and kind of batter my way through it. It's much, much less painful on the back and it does the same thing- I can run it over once just to break up the soil, or a couple of times to make it finer

on one of my plots, the empty beds have been dug over, manured amd left to do its thIng. The other plot needs to be gone over, so I'll break it up with the azada, have another quick run over it then get some manure down while I can.

i'm not saying that it's a foolproof way of doing things, but it works for me  

This is how I compost in winter. Dig one trench - not hard work - fill it with my bucket of kitchen waste and cover that over from digging out the next trench. Then that's ready for when the bucker's next full - tip it in then cover it and there's the next trench dug, ready and waiting. I've got all winter...

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