Digging and forking through the soil allows you to loosen any compaction, remove weeds and debris as well as providing the perfect opportunity to add the organic matter.
Plants need good soil conditions if they are to give the best results. Improving the soil with plenty of organic matter in the form of compost helps drainage and aeration on heavy soils and conserves essential moisture on light ones.
On the veg patch or areas of bare soil, consider growing green manures – these are seedling crops that are dug back in to enrich the soil. Don’t dig soil for the sake of it. Once planted, the ground can be enriched by mulching and allowing worms to help incorporate it.
Grow better plants with this guide on improving your soil.
You Will Need
Organic matter, in the form of compost or well-rotted manure
Digging over the soil
Dig the soil thoroughly, breaking up large clods or lumps to relieve compaction. It’s best to use a spade for soil that’s never been dug. Previously cultivated soil can be forked through to the depth of the tines.
Add home-made garden compost, bagged compost or well-rotted manure. As a rule, add a minimum 5cm layer of organic matter over the surface before digging or forking it in. These organic fertilisers are more beneficial to soil bacteria than inorganic compounds.
Adding organic matter
Dig over the soil deeply again to incorporate the organic matter, mixing it into the soil to the depth of the spade or fork tines.
Digging in the organic matter
Tread the area, using your heels to firm the soil. If necessary, break up large lumps of soil with the back of a fork.
Treading the soil to firm it back in
Rake the soil to remove stones and any rogue weed seedlings. This will also create an even layer for planting or sowing.
Raking the soil to remove weeds and stones
Don’t attempt to do all your digging and soil improvement in one go. It’s easy to overdo it and strain muscles, even if you are physically fit. Most importantly, do some gentle warm up exercises before you start and stretches when you finish.