Posted: 29/12/2013 at 10:00
my fear with the " get stuck in with all guns blazing" approach is that, at this time of year, some nasties like ground elder, bindweed , couch grass might be lurking underground,and by digging, you'll just be storing up problems with regrowth from all those chopped up roots later in the season. I'd wait until growth starts but, by all means, start cutting down the brambles as the young growth can either be dug up or treated at a later date.
Digging in this case involves not just breaking up the soil but breaking up each clod with the back of the fork and bending down and removing roots - all and any roots, grass roots, ground elder roots, bindweed roots, nettle roots and bramble roots - to the inexperienced these will be unidentifiable roots but they all need removing and burning or disposing of in a brown wheelie bin.
That's not 'going in with all guns blazing' but proper digging and soil preparation for whatever is coming next. It will not result in 'chopped up roots' as simply turning the soil over with a spade would do, or churning the surface up with a rotavator which, I agree would, in this case be a recipe for disaster.
There is no easy way to do this job properly, but it'll be so much easier to do it now when the soil is soft and nothing is growing!