A Gardeners view: Digging in January with the new Japeto ash handled garden digging spade & forkDate Posted: 18 January 2021
“Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.”
Whenever I go out into the garden to dig a border or a vegetable patch I always think of the famous poem by Seamus Heaney from which the above quote is taken.
Digging is many things: a basic human activity for many hundreds and probably thousands of years; a ‘cleaning’ of the earth; a vigorous therapy for the body and a satisfying turning over of the past.
There are many who have, during lockdown, taken up gardening, who have never experienced the wonderful feeling of turning the soil over and ‘refreshing’ the ground.
For those I would suggest the following ways to make the best of this traditional way of preparing the earth for sowing seeds or ‘planting out’.
1. A good quality, preferably stainless steel bladed spade. Make sure that the spade is light in weight but strong enough to allow you to ‘lever’ the soil when the going is tough.
2. Make sure that the shaft of the spade is smooth, preferably of ash wood and not metal (which makes the spade heavy) as you will be sliding your hand up and down the shaft whilst working.
3. The spade must have good ‘treads’ – these are the shoulders of the blade onto which your boot is placed in order to drive the blade into the ground.
4. Finally make sure that you are wearing boots or shoes that will not be too soft when you tread the spade into the ground.
4. Start by digging a trench 1 spade depth in a straight line across the area you are digging. Take each spade full of soil to the end of the plot you are going to dig and line this up in a row across. Now you will be able to fill the trench which you have just made with the soil you turnover from the next row. This is called ‘single digging’. There are other methods but they need not bother us here.
5. Now start to dig again treading the spade a full depth into the soil, lifting and turning the clod into the trench you have just dug so that the bottom of the clod is at the top. Then break up the soil with the spade. You will eventually be looking to achieve a fine ‘tilth’ which is ready for you to sow your seeds into.
Above all enjoy it. Enjoy being out in the fresh air. Get into a rhythm and enjoy the moment each time you reach the end of a row. Think about the plants or the seeds that you will sow and what will become of them in the ensuing months.
Finally I think that I can say that the Japeto garden digging spade is quite superb and meets all of my criteria for this tool.