How to Dig

How to Dig: Part one of a shiny NEW Spy Garden How-To series! How to go from Grass to Garden. Yard to Vegetables. Lawn to Earth Sculpture.

Prerequisite gardening knowledge needed: NONE.

Even if you don’t plan on picking up a shovel in the foreseeable future, you may want to follow along anyway because if there is, say, a zombie apocalypse, gardening will be a wicked useful skill. And so,

Presenting…

Part One: How to Dig

Here is a map of Spy Garden:

2014 plan (500x390)

A few days ago we had a momentous groundbreaking ceremony for the “EXPANSION!” (the dashed-line shape) in the plan above. By “ceremony”, I mean, me,

Baby,

Baby,

and

the puppies,

the puppies,

started digging.

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Groundbreaking Ceremony

During the grand celebration (aka the first glorious moments when grass begins to turn to garden), I thought “HEY! I should share step by step on how I create this new garden bed from scratch so people can see how easy it is!” I am not very fond of following directions (at least in my creative/leisure pursuits) and my approach to “grass to garden” is based on me “winging it” in the garden for the past few years. The method I will share in the formation of this new plot is what has been most effective method for growing vegetables in Spy Garden. My approach incorporates aspects of both “till” and “no till” approaches, the only tool I ever use is a regular shovel (well, sometimes a wheelbarrow) and mostly all “jobs” in the garden are completed in 30 minutes or less increments (which is about the time it takes for a two-year old Babyzilla to get bored of the garden).

Unearthing the mechanics of proper digging is the first step in deepening your garden knowledge. The bad puns and double-entendres contained in explaining the art of digging could fill a very deep hole…but I digress.

Sometimes, when the topic of gardening comes up (and by “comes up” I mean, when I bring it up) people say to me, “I don’t know how to garden.” Probably what they really mean is “Please stop talking about gardening.” This statement always bothers me because really, neither do I, really, KNOW how to garden! And how can everyone possibly not share my enthusiasm for dirt!? In the Microsoft Word Thesaurus if you look up “dirt”, some synonyms are “gossip”, “scandal” and “smut”. Judging by the magazine display at the grocery aisle check-out, I gather that a lot of people care about that sort of dirt. But again, I digress.

I’ve learned various things about gardening but it is sort of like starting over every season and being open to learning “how to garden” all over again, every spring. One does not really “learn” how to garden, you just do it. And the first step of gardening is digging. Well, really the first step is choosing a location, but that’s a whole other topic, one I’ve covered, along with the merits of thinking beyond the expected quadrilateral for your plot, in this post.

In our area (Missouri), I find that the ideal time to dig a new garden plot is winter. On, say, a 35-50 (Farenheit) degree day

50 Degrees Farenheit

50 Degrees Farenheit

when all the snow has melted so the ground is slightly damp, but not soaked. Winter is a good time to dig new plots because the grass/weeds are dormant. When you dig in the spring you are flinging millions of seeds around that are eager to grow, overzealous really, and they will quickly take over. In winter, everything is dormant,

(except for children)

(except for children)

so if you create a big patch of dirt it will stay a big patch of dirt (sans weeds) for a month or two (until spring). Come spring I’ll share my patented (not really), No Till, No Weeds phase of preparing the garden for plants. Exposing big clods of dirt to the elements (wind/snow/sun/etc.) prior to spring is great because it allows for the soil to break down (nature’s mechanical tilling) for the next few months.

Enough blathering let’s have at it:

How to Dig

Step 1: Shove the shovel into the ground.

Step 1: Shove the shovel into the ground.

Step 2: Step on the flat part at the top and shove it deeper into the ground.

Step 2: Step on the flat part at the top and shove it deeper into the ground.

Step 3: Use the leverage of the handle to pry up the clod of dirt.

Step 3: Use the leverage of the handle to pry up the clod of dirt.

Step 4: Flip the clod over so the grass is on the bottom.

Step 4: Flip the clod over so the grass is on the bottom.

Step 5: Repeat until you have the plot as large as you’d like.

Step 5: Repeat until you have the plot as large as you’d like.

I’m going to need to move this fence.

I’m going to need to move this fence.

Love those dirt moguls!

You could remove the grass/sod.  There is a nifty little sod cutter thing that digs up just the uppermost layer of grass and soil. You could roll it up and then relocate the grass to another location. But that would be REALLY involved. Martha Stewart does that and it’s awesome and all but my method takes virtually NO TIME.

Seriously, this new plot I’ve started in the picture above took less than 30 minutes to dig. Plus you only need one tool (a shovel).

Unless you have paws then you don't need any tools at all!

Unless you have paws then you don’t need any tools at all!

I was hoping to make this as satirical and funny as possible, but I had to take a lot of the jokes out because they were too dirty, and this site is rated PG.

Dig it?

15 thoughts on “How to Dig

  1. Pingback: TGIF! | Spy Garden

  2. alderandash

    Amazing what you can accomplish with just a spade and a toddler for help. My two kids are generally happy ‘helping’ in the garden for a good half an hour or so as long as they have access to mud. Lots and lots of mud – and sticks to poke it with. Happy times! Loved your blog, I’ll pop by again!

    Reply
  3. Pingback: A Brand New Garden! | Spy Garden

  4. Pingback: The Plot Thickens | Spy Garden

  5. gardengirl204

    I usually wait till it’s time to plant (late May) to start digging – but this year I’m gonna try it your way! Hopefully we will have a “lamb” of a March (here in Pittsburgh) and I’ll keep my eye on the thermometer for those 50 degree days. Would be so nice to enjoy the ‘planting in’ process without being so exhausted by the ‘digging in’ process!

    Reply
  6. narf77

    I read this post with a mixture of wonder and envy. Wonder at how you possibly got your kids out into the garden with you and envy at how easily you managed to turn that soil! As an island comprised of extinct volcano’s, Tasmania was never going to be an easy dig. Our entire property (from the tippy top to the downiest bottom bit) is comprised of 7 parts rocks, 2 parts heavy clay that sets into the soil equivalent of concrete for 6 months of the year and 1 part silt, the results of clay drying out, that is prone to blowing away at any given moment (at the slightest hint of a breeze), exposing more clay and repeating the dust providing sequence exponentially right through summer. We don’t get cold enough here to stop anything from growing so I probably won’t consider the garden weed free at any given stage of garden design and my gardens need to be built up so that there is a healthy ratio of soil to plant rather than rock to plant. I discovered early on that plants + rocks do not make for a particularly good harvest.

    Reply
    1. Spy Garden Post author

      There is a small window of time (50 degree winter days) when the ground is like butter and digging is a breeze. Our soil is very clay, and does turn into concrete in the summer heat. I actually order a truckload of dirt (loam/compost mix) and will pile it on top of what I have turned over in the spring. It is an indulgence (about $200 for a truckload of dirt) but that good dark black soil that you can just press a hole in for a seedling is SO worth it. I’ve tried it other ways but it just makes everything so easy. Over a season the “good dirt” and my “clay” mix together and towards the end of the season I start turning them together. If I would stop adding “EXPANSIONS!” I wouldn’t have to order dirt as the rest of the dirt in the garden has come a long way and is pretty “good to go”. I know I really should compost but…one day…

      Reply
      1. narf77

        My mum (rest her soul) tried valiantly to get me to compost. Every email it would be “have you started a compost pile yet?” so when she came over to visit in April 2011 we hurriedly cobbled together a rudimentary compost bin in order to get her to “SHUT UP!” She was happy…for a time…then she started up about vegetable gardens…sigh. All of the gardening that I have inside me comes from her. My now thriving and most incredible crazy veggie garden was completely down to her desire to “see us right” and you know what? I WISH I could tell her I finally learned but I guess I am just going to have to share that with my kids now and hope, beyond hope, that they listen. Good chance they will because unlike my mum, I am NOT polite and will simply do a Mrs Doyle from Father Ted (if you don’t know who she is check this out…

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N20wHvMPTGs ) ;)

        “Go on…go on…go on…go on..go ON!” ;)

    1. Spy Garden Post author

      It doesn’t seem like our winter is THAT much warmer than yours but I guess the sporadic 50 degree days do make a big difference. I’ll dig a few shovelfuls for you!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s