Single Digging


Single digging is a systematic digging technique used to ensure that an area of ground is cultivated to an even standard and a specific depth.

In this method, a series of 30 cm (1 ft) wide trenches are dug to a depth of 1 spit (1 spade). As each trench is dug, the soil is used to refill the previous trench, with the soil from the first trench eventually filling the last trench.

Although a spade is normally used for this technique, you may find that a fork is easier to use on heavy or stony soil.


  1. Mark out the area of the bed to be dug using string and canes.
  2. Starting from one end of the plot, dig a trench 30 cm (1 ft) wide and 1 spit deep.
  3. Place the soil from the first trench into a wheelbarrow or in a pile on the ground in front.
  4. Incorporate any soil improvers, such as lime, organic matter or fertilizers, into the bottom of the trench.
  5. Remove any weeds - especially deep-rooting perennials.
  6. Dig a second trench (the same dimensions), moving the soil into the first trench. Make sure that the soil has been turned so that any remaining annual weeds and weed seeds have been buried.
  7. Continue working backwards along the plot, turning the soil from each trench into the one in front.
  8. Finally, use the soil you removed from the first trench to fill the last one.
  9. Do not walk in the soil once it has been cultivated.

Single digging is good for poor soils and is a useful technique for removing perennial weeds.