Digging sandy soils


Ideally prepare your light, sandy or chalky soil in early spring. This can be done in late autumn as long as the soil is not waterlogged. Alternatively, sow green manure and dig it in spring.


  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors
  • School term: Early Spring
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, Art&DT, Geography

Learning objectives

  • Learn to choose the correct tool for the job and learn how to dig safely
  • Understand that soil needs to be cultivated for plants to achieve good growth

Essential background information


Ensure you know your soil texture- is it sandy or clay?
Make sure pupils understand tool safety and that they are wearing the correct footwear and gloves.


  • Gloves, spades, forks 
  • Hand trowels and hand forks, kneeler mats for raised beds for use with other children
  • Plank of wood
  • Buckets for weeds
  • Organic matter (from school compost bin or purchase bagged soil conditioner)
  • Tool cleaning brushes

Step by step

  1. Using the tools, push deep into the soil and carefully loosen, lift and turn the soil over. Spades or trowels work best on lighter soils.
  2. Remove the roots of perennial weeds which would over-winter and grow again next spring. Do not compost these roots. Remove any old plant material and add to compost heap. Small seedlings and annual weeds are buried when the soil is turned over and will break down in the soil.
  3. Fill buckets with organic matter (e.g. from compost bin). Spread this over the soil surface, approximately 2 buckets of organic matter to every square metre of soil. No need to dig in. Cover this with the cardboard or landscape material as this stops surface capping, peg down well.
  4. Alternatively sow a green manure crop, follow the packet instructions and dig in in the spring.

Hints & tips

  • By sowing green manures on light soils, they can minimise soil erosion and surface capping by winter weather and prevent nutrients being washed from the soil. They are dug in in spring, at least two weeks before planting crops.

We've won awards!

Winner of the Drum Marketing Awards 2017
Winner of the ERA 2017 awards
Winner of the Third Sector 2017 awards