Student Vegetable Plots
Digging: a student prospective
Out on the plots in mid November learning how to dig
Digging is an autumn chore! Yes but nevertheless an essential chore and much less of a chore if you know the techniques for soil cultivation.
Single digging is the most common practice: Single refers to the depth to which the soil needs to be dug ; that is equivalent to the longest length of the spade’s blade, which is commonly known as a ‘spit’
How is it done? Easy the Kew way!
This makes you a real gardener according to my instructor. The reason for all of this digging was as a consequence of not having enough water close to plots, a solution was to dig in some organic stuff where the moisture would be held in the soil.
Single digging starts by digging a trench at one end of the plot. The trench dimensions are a spit deep and a spit plus 20% wide this allows for the fact the soil will expand when aerated. The trench must have vertical sides- this is achieved by holding the spade at right angles to the ground, and a horizontal base. The soil is removed from the first trench and stored for filling the final trench. Here comes the main gist of single digging, how the soil is transferred from the second trench into the first. The soil must be turned, such that the soil at the bottom of second trench ends up at the top of the first trench. The soil is inverted, although there are many advantages to this, such as weed control and compaction, the main reason is, as the soil has been inverted the “tired” coarse soil around the root system is now placed on top and the “fertile” topsoil is placed near the bottom of trench ready to feed next year crop. A particular advantage of single digging is the particular easy with which it can be done. If one stands at right angles to the spade it is easy to lever the shaft of the spade past your body while bending. The soil can be taken out, turned and thrown forward without over stretching. Once you warm up and get a rhythm going, before you know it you are throwing soil in to the final trench
Although not advisable to dig in the pouring rain as we did! We are on a tight schedule at Kew - things have to happen when the timetable says. Autumn is the time when Mother Nature can toil and break down the coarse finish into a crumb structure ready for spring cultivation
There are a number of other digging methods including Double, Trenching and No – dig. The first two are necessary when cultivation has not been carried out recently and the sub layer prevents plant root penetration and poor drainage. Fortunately, due to the fact that the plots have been cultivated by Kew students over many years only single digging is required.
Having been shown all of this I feel my back won’t suffer too much but I pray that this Saturday will be a bright DRY autumn day. I will try and be one of those real gardeners.
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