Page 32 - Simply Vegetables Winter 2020/21
P. 32

Life is a garden (if you have one) so dig it!?
Digging is best carried out using a spade, “ladies” spade or on heavy / clay soil using
a fork as the soil sticks less to this. Stainless steel spades are very useful and slice through a clay soil easier and the soil sticks less to the spade. They are dearer to buy but very handy for older folk and people with mobility difficulties.
If you are creating a new vegetable garden from scratch dig the area over properly
using a spade and trenching method. Many people do not dig correctly and only do half a job and also risk a back injury. If there is turf underfoot make a forward trench to a spades depth and width using a line to mark the position and size of the trench; mark a trench 15 to 18cm wide (approx. spades width). Using the spade mark the trench and individual spits, then slice off the turf with the spade to a depth of 2.5 to 3cm and put to one side. Once the trench is dug out place the turf upside down in the bottom to rot and improve the soil.
Grasp the handle with your main hand and drive the spade into the soil where you wish to cut to form the spit to be removed. Lift the spade up vertically at 90° bending the arms at the elbow, bring the spade smartly downwards and drive it into the soil as far
as it will go. Then using your left foot on the shoulder of the spade and push the blade into the soil as far as it will go using your whole body weight.
Depending on whether you are left or
right handed grasp the lower part of the spade shaft with your dominant hand and the spade handle with your other hand.
The spade acts like a lever and lifts the soil spit forward. By swaying backwards as you bear on the handle again using your body weight pull the spade handle back slightly
to crack the soil. Move the left hand down the handle (at an easy length) and lift the spit of soil which has been broken out. Throw it forwards carefully and turn it upside down
completing the process by swaying slightly forward making use of your body weight again. Then repeat process until you have completed the trench and then the plot. Do not lift any higher than you need or throw any further forward than need be to maintain the trench in front of you and maintain a reasonable level surface. Ensure all annual weeds are well buried and remove perennial ones.
In practise the movements follow one another so quickly they nearly overlap. The spade should be driven vertically into the soil and the handle upright to make sure you are digging to the full depth of the spade (25cm). After digging the plot it should be roughly level but not fine soil, the weather will do this for you if you dig early enough and don’t
pat it down it will settle on its own accord otherwise you are wasting labour, time and effort. The secret of backache less digging
is using your body weight as well as a bit of muscle. Also to not do too much in one go especially when you first start digging in the autumn.
Left handed people use the right foot on
the spade shoulder and right handers use the left foot and the right hand for the lower position on the spade shaft.
I will cover trenching in my next article, so get some single digging done now to warm you up”!
To help avoid back injury do some warm up exercise before starting to dig to loosen up the muscle a few stretches and twisting the upper body.
Jim has recently turn 95 and has got
his “bairns” to put in 5 raised beds 90cm high and 1.2m wide filling them with soil and spacing them to his instructions. They are made from a hardwood called Jurra in 2.5m lengths. The beds have wide spacious pathways for easy reach of the soil, turning it and sowing and planting. Well worth the cost.
Some more of Jim’s sayings...
If your ship doesn’t come in, you swim out to it. If you have reached the end of your tether tie a knot in it and hang on.
Take care, Jim.
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