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How to dig beds in winter


Digging your soil, and incorporating organic matter, greatly improves its quality. It enhances both soil texture and structure, increases nutrient retention and aids drainage, as well as promoting oxygen levels.

The technique known as single digging requires a little effort, but the results are well worth it. Follow our step-by-step guide to single digging, below.

How to do it


If the ground is dry enough, winter is a great time for digging - but keep off any soil that is frozen or waterlogged.

Digging a trench


Dig a neat trench as deep and as wide as the spade, turning the soil onto the side as you go, breaking up large clods.

Adding organic matter to a trench


Add home-made compost, leaf mould or manure to the trench, or use bags of green waste bought from the council.

Forking compost into soil


Fork compost into the soil, breaking up the base of the trench to improve the drainage beneath.

Digging along a raised bed


Work your way down the bed, only walking on un-dug ground. Turn topsoil from each trench into the previous one.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to dig beds in winter
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AEH 02/01/2014 at 16:51

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

fidgetbones 02/01/2014 at 17:01

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.

punkdoc 02/01/2014 at 17:53

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.

Verdun 02/01/2014 at 18:49

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.  

Zoomer44 02/01/2014 at 20:44

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.  

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