Digging Up the Garden or Loosening the Soil

When the vegetable beds are largely empty, it’s time to work the soil spade-deep – the digging begins! At least that’s what many old gardening hands say. Others, however, advise against turning the soil deeply. We explain how to loosen the soil gently and when it makes sense to dig.

As a general rule, light soils with a high sand content do not need to be dug up. In general, it is sufficient for most types of soil to loosen them to the depth of a spade a few weeks before the new season in spring, for example with a sow’s tooth.

Digging over is not necessarily beneficial even on heavy soils. The soil flora and fauna are permanently disturbed. If important soil organisms reach deeper layers, they die because the acid supply there is no longer present. Soil inhabitants from deeper layers, on the other hand, should not be brought to the surface if possible.

Loosening the soil with a hoe

The single-pronged, curved garden tool is available with a long handle for working upright. Hand sowers are about 40 cm long and feature a short “tooth” to loosen the soil.

This deep aerator can be pulled effortlessly through light and cooked soils and loosens them to a depth of about 25 cm, depending on the model. The soil stratification remains intact. Because of the high effort required, the sow tooth is less suitable for working heavy, compacted soils. However, if such soil is improved with sufficient sand and regular applications of compost, it can also be worked with the implement in the long term.

Before sowing, the sowing tooth is pulled through the soil in longitudinal and transverse directions so that rhombuses are formed. Afterwards, the soil can settle a little. Finally, the use of a rake shortly before sowing ensures a fine-crumbled bed.

Loosening offers several advantages: Deeper soil layers are well supplied with oxygen, from which the soil organisms benefit. Due to their increased activity, organic matter is quickly transformed, resulting in many plant-available nutrients. In addition, water can penetrate better into heavy soils.

Digging up or mulching the garden

If you are gardening on heavy or heavily compacted soil, or if you are planting a new vegetable patch, you will sometimes have to use a spade. When digging, however, take care to disturb the soil stratification as little as possible. Autumn is the best season for this. Frost causes compacted clods to disintegrate, creating more space for aeration.

If you do not want to dig up your garden in principle, but want to improve the soil quality, you can mulch the area or apply green manure. For mulching, one usually uses plant residues from one’s own garden or even special mulch plants that grow effortlessly in the surrounding area. As a rule of thumb, the mulch layer is not applied too thickly – 2 to 5 centimetres is usually sufficient. The blanket of organic material can be carefully worked into the surface shortly before planting or sowing.

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