Hedge plants

Digging in the garden: necessary or not?


Digging the beds is one of the first and last tasks of a gardening season. But does that really have to be? No! We would like to explain in more detail why it can even be harmful.

© Ingo Bartussek - Fotolia.com The same processes every year: Before the plants could be placed in the beds, the bed had to be completely dug up. This loosens the soil, makes the weeds disappear and enables easier planting. The same should be done in autumn just before hibernation. At least that's what they always said. For some years now, however, there has been discussion as to whether digging is necessary or not. Is this annoying and above all exhausting gardening finally a thing of the past? We tell you.

Reasons against digging

Why is the annual digging so hotly discussed? Very easily. There are billions of living things in just one liter of garden soil. These include earthworms, insects, mites, fungi, bacteria and algae. Together they ensure that the floor is as it is. It is even loosened up by the living beings themselves. The experts at Planet Wissen once listed exactly which living things take on which tasks in the earth. This should show you how important this entire organism is.

By digging, however, you mess up the garden floor and thus also the individual layers in which the living beings “live” and do their work. Then they die because they can no longer find their typical living conditions. In addition, metabolic processes that are important for plant growth are interrupted. So it could happen that the plants that you subsequently use do not thrive as well because of the lack of nutrients. It takes a certain amount of time for the floor to recover.

Many garden owners also hope to dig less weeds. However, this is not correct, because digging can bring weed seeds that have been in the ground to the surface. There they start to germinate very quickly and let the weeds grow on the bed.

Alternatives to digging

If you prefer to avoid digging in order to keep the optimal soil and protect the fauna in the garden soil, there are of course alternatives.

For example, you can cover the bed in late summer or autumn with a layer of mulch, grass clippings or semi-mature compost. Autumn leaves are also ideal. So you do not have to worry about the foliage disposal. The protective layer that you simply put on the ground protects it from temperature fluctuations, silting up and weed growth. But not only that, the soil is supplied with nutrients and kept moist for longer.

Alternatively, you can also apply green manure. These are easily sown. But make sure that the plants have to be mowed before the seeds ripen. The green manure then serves as a mulch layer until spring.

Depending on which protective layer you have chosen, shortly before the new sowing in spring, it must then be removed from the bed and composted.

Then the soil has to be loosened slightly. A floor fan, also called saucer, is best suited for this. With this garden tool you loosen the soil deeply without turning it around. Simply draw lengths along and across so that a so-called diamond pattern is created. The lanes should be spaced about 20 centimeters apart. It is best to remove any weeds immediately.

Sauzahn floor fan

" Available hereGarden tiller for soil loosening

" Available here

Approximately two weeks before plants are to be used, you can enrich the soil with a little ripe compost. But be careful not to over-fertilize your plants. The optimal amount could be calculated if garden soil and compost were examined in the laboratory. But this is quite cumbersome, since you would have to do this for every area of ​​use in the garden, since the earth is nowhere the same. I found a rule of thumb at the Federal Center for Nutrition:

Terms rangeAmount of compost
vegetables3 liters per square meter of earth
roses3 liters per square meter of earth
perennial beds2 liters per square meter of earth
berry bushes2 liters + 100g horn meal per square meter of soil
fruit trees4 liters + 100g horn meal per square meter of soil

Now that the garden soil has been left to stand for two weeks, you can use your desired plants.

Sometimes digging makes sense

As always, there are exceptions, of course. In two cases it makes sense to dig up your garden soil.

On the one hand, this is the case when the bed has been idle for years and now fruit, vegetables or ornamental plants are to be grown. Or on the other hand, if you have a heavy clay or clay soil, for example many plants do not thrive at all.

In both cases it is advisable to dig the garden soil, preferably in autumn. With clay and loam soils in particular, this has the advantage that the coarse chunks of earth break up due to the frost and the soil is better aerated. If you incorporate compost every year, the garden soil will improve significantly over the years.

Although digging is one of the most sweaty tasks, you can get yourself up and motivated pretty quickly with smaller areas. The situation is different with larger areas. Without subsequent back pain, this work can usually not be done. Gasoline milling cutters make work considerably easier.

Our tip: A petrol tiller is suitable for loosening soil as well as for preparing seedbeds and incorporating organic materials. In addition, a powerful petrol milling machine with forward and reverse gear can also be expanded with accessories such as a plow and paddle wheels.

Incidentally, it is recommended to plant potatoes in the first year after digging and to apply green manure after the harvest. This combination suppresses weeds and loosens the soil at the same time.