A Spit

A spit is measurement of soil depth judged by the length of the blade of a spade.

It is used to describe how deep a trench should be dug. As in single digging is one spit deep, double digging is two spits deep.

Possibly the term spit, ‘the depth of earth cut by a spade’, comes from the sixteenth century Middle Dutch (Collins Dictionary).

Some would have a spit as a type of spade similar to a trenching spade. These both have a narrower curved blade than the usual garden spade. This may be due to the use of the term spit when giving instructions on digging a trench.

However, it is mentioned as something in common usage by John Evelyn in his “Directions for the Gardiner” which was written in the 1680s. For example, in regards to instructions for digging a pit or hole in which to transplant a tree.  Here it used as part of double digging as Evelyn refers to “the second spit”. He also mentions “halfe-spit digging among Fruite-Trees” as being a better technique than weeding for keeping the ground clear.

digging a trench two spits deep; a spit is a measurement of soil depth judged by the length of the blade of a spade

« Back to Glossary Index