As well as getting ready with some of your winter sowing, this time of the year is a good soil preparation time, and one of the best ways to get the plot ready for next year is to double dig. Digging over the soil is essential for good plant growth. If you have a poor soil then organic matter can be added at the same time as digging.
The ideal time to double dig your plot is from October through December (i.e. now!), this is because the soil is free of frost and so can be left to overwinter, winter frosts will help break the soil down further. However if you leave it too late then the ground may be too wet or frozen and so will be be much more difficult to work with. You should avoid digging over heavy soil when it's wet as this can damage the soil structure and lead to poor aeration and poor drainage.
So how to double Dig?
Step 1 Begin at one end of the bed and dig a spade-head depth (approx. 12" deep or 30cm) trench across the entire bed's width, placing the excavated dirt in a wheelbarrow.
Step 2 Fork over the bottom of the trench. This is where the name 'double digging' comes from, as you dig twice the depth as usual, single digging. Add organic matter, such as garden compost or well-rotted manure, to the base and lightly fork in
Step 3 Dig a second, trench of a similar size to the first trench directly next to the first. Place the excavated soil into the first trench you dug. Loosen the soil at the bottom of this second trench with the garden fork as well.
Step 4 Dig a third trench next to the second trench. Backfill the second trench, loosen the bottom of the third trench, and continue this process until you have tilled the whole bed.
Step 5 Fill the final trench with the soil excavated from the first. (The soil from the wheelbarrow)
Step 6 Take a well earned rest and have a cup of tea!