If you’re planning on creating raised beds there is no need to dig at all really, unless you need to level the ground. Simply lay down the weed suppressant membrane, construct the beds and fill with compost.
For those of us who want to use the traditional approach, or don’t have the cash to pay the upfront costs of raised beds, we will need to dig our beds out removing the weeds as we go.
You may think you could hire a Rotavator to do the digging for you. This is a definite no no! It will quickly multiply the amount of weeds. Rotavators shred up the soil including any perennial weed roots turning one weed plant in to 10. Don’t do it!! Watch these two videos by @rickvanman if you want to see the evidence. Video 1: Rotavator antics | Video 2: Weeds winning the battle, but not the war
Options – digging you plot
The options below are purely for digging your plot for the first time. I suggest you leave things like double digging until your second year. Focus on getting the weed roots out for now.
- Don’t dig this year – Put weed suppressant membrane down and leave for a year. This will kill of the weeds and leave you with clear soil next year. Works well with any type of soil. Not great if you’re itching to start growing.
- Dig by hand with a fork (best) or spade, pulling out the weeds and roots as you go. It doesn’t matter if you take of some of the soil with the weeds just pile these up in a corner of you plot and cover (block out the light) for a year. This will give you nice rich soil/compost for next year. This is best for sandy soils where you can simple dig up weeds with the fork and shake off the soil.
- Use a hoe or mattock to skim off the top layer or weeds / turf. Then dig over and break up the soil with a fork, removing weed roots as you find them. This is particularly good for clay soils (sticky or baked solid) as it can be difficult to separate the weeds from the soil.
Once you’ve chosen your option simply mark out the bed and get to it. The sooner you start the sooner it will be finished 😉