Unwins Seeds

Frost can be good! WINTER DIGGING

21 January 2014 | Posted in Gardening by The Unwins Family

WINTER DIGGING Take advantage of the cold to break up roughly dug soil.  Waking up to a hard winter frost certainly looks spectacular, but it's not often a cause for celebration. Scraping frosty windscreens and braving slippy pavements makes the journey to work or out to the shops hard work. This time last year in 2013 we had snow that followed a few very mild weeks, much like the start to this year,  and it was followed by a hard winter- we even had  snow in April!  No one wants to see a repeat of that but cold, crisp and frosty weather can make crops taste better and a cold spell certainly helps to kill off any pests and bugs that survive mild weather.

Frost also breaks up heavy clay soils and makes winter digging more beneficial. You can leave the soil in rough clods and winter cold will break down the soil structure to give fine crumbly soil in spring that will be ready to plant or sow into.

WINTER DIGGING With the continued popularity of raised beds and 'no dig' gardening, the habit of winter digging has fallen out of favour . But if you have heavy clay soil to prepare for planting then winter digging takes advantage of the frosty weather to do some of the hard work for you. Dig in mild spells when soil is workable and doesn't stick to your boots. Traditional winter digging involves turn the soil over with a spade to at least the depth of the spade's blade (called a spit).  There is a method to getting the soil dug evenly, you dig out the first trench and turn the soil you've dug out into a wheel barrow. Then dig another trench and turn the soil from that straight  into the empty trench in front; weeding and improving the soil as you dig. Carry on like this until you get to the end of the bed and fill the last trench with the saved soil.

WEED As you dig remove and discard any deep rooted  perennial weeds such as docks and dandelions, bindweed and ground elder and look out for buttercups and couch grass that invade bare soil.You can bury any annual weeds at the bottom of the trenches; they'll rot down and add nutrients to the soil.  

IMPROVE SOIL Depending on what you intend  to plant add soil improver and homemade compost or well rotted manure to the soil as you dig.

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