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How to prepare your soil for spring planting

Martyn Cox / 28 November 2013

If you are planning on planting up a new bed or border in the spring, early winter is the perfect time to wrap up warm and prepare the soil.

Gardener digging soil
Grab a spade, put a few hours aside and cultivate your ground

Winter is the time for clearing weeds and then digging over the ground to reveal larvae of pests to hungry birds, while large clods will be broken down by winter rain and frosts into soil that is ideal for planting. So what are you waiting for? Grab a spade, put a few hours aside and cultivate your ground – in a few months' time you’ll have super soil that your new plants will thrive in.

Related: how to improve your soil.

Remove weeds

Start by removing weeds from your soil. 

Annual weeds can easily be eliminated by hand or with a hoe, which will sever the tops from the roots, but perennial weeds will need a little more work. 

Use a hand fork or a special long-handled weeding tool to lever the weed from the ground, ensuring that all the roots have been removed – some weeds can regenerate from the tiniest portions left behind, so it’s important to be as thorough as possible.

Related: using ground cover to control weeds.

Start digging

In most gardens you can use a method of cultivating soil that is known as simple digging. To do this, dig up a clod of soil, turn it over and drop back into the same hole. Chop it up a bit and then repeat, working methodically across the bed. If the soil has been worked previously, you might even be able to do this with a fork.

Alternatively, you can prepare the soil more thoroughly and give it a boost by single digging. 

Start at one end of the area to be excavated and dig out a complete trench to the depth of the spade’s blade. Transport the soil to the other end of the bed in a wheelbarrow (if the bed is large, you may need to remove several wheelbarrow’s worth of soil, so spread out a sheet of plastic for dropping the soil onto).

Related: how growing green manures can improve your soil.

Composting the soil

Now, spread some well-rotted farmyard manure, leaf mould or garden compost across the base of the trench and then dig out another trench immediately in front of it, dropping the soil onto the organic material. Continue until you reach the end. The soil in the barrow can then be dropped into the remaining trench.

Now the hard work's done, sit back, relax and order your plants for planting in spring.

Related: how to make a compost heap.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.