Whether you are just about to start Growing Vegetables for the first time, or are making a new bed, or maybe want to get the best out of existing plots then as far as we are concerned Double Digging is the way to go.
First a brief introduction:
What is Double Digging?
Double digging is different from the traditional way of digging over the ground in that, as the name suggests, you dig twice as deeply as normal.
In traditional Vegetable Growing you normally dig to about a spades depth and turn over the soil. In Double Digging you will be digging over the ground to a depth of about two spades deep.
It sounds like an awful of of work (and it is) but the benefits are enormous if you follow the guidelines presented later.
First a few Double Digging Advantages or Deep Bed method advantages:
- Much higher yields for the same amount of space
- Soil is aerated and allows better moisture retention
- Higher earthworm activity
- The soil is very loose and makes adding Organic matter much simpler
- Helps to find and eliminate deep rooting woods for a clearer bed
Most importantly though, if you follow the following rules you will not spend more than a few minutes each year quickly going over the plot! You only need to Double Dig a plot about once every five years and it will never be like it was the first year.
Once you have Double Dug a plot the soil will be so loose to such a great depth that you will be able to just quickly fork it over each year in a few minutes. Here in Spain we had to initially dig our beds with a pick axe! But now I can dig over each plot with a pitchfork the soil is so loose!
How To Double Dig
There are lots of online resources going in to endless detail on how to double dig involving measuring out each section, where to put the soil, blah, blah, blah!
As far as me and Mrs.Dirty Boots are concerned it just isn’t necessary. Look, here is all you need to know to have a great and highly productive Double Dug Bed.
- Mark out the area you wish to use
- Dig it one Spade deep and throw the soil to the side
- Start at one end using a fork and dig over the trench a forks depth deep, turning it, breaking up the soil and evening out as you go
- DO NOT stand on ANYTHING you have forked over (more on this later)
- Hop, or struggle (feeling tired?) out of the trench
- Add a good layer of Compost or Organic matter to the trench
- Fill in the trench (I know, I know) with approx one spade of good organic material to every three spades of the soil you have dug out
- Job done!
Well, almost! You will now have a mound above soil level. We like to border this with small rocks in our case but anything you can get your hands on will do, or not. This isn’t school. Do with it as you will.
There are a few very important factors to bear in mind when it comes to Double Digging and you need to bear these in mind before setting out to become a Double Digging advocate.
- Firstly, to get the full benefit of your hard work you must never again stand on what you have dug. If you do you will compact the soil and loose a lot of the benefits of your hard work.
- Number two is done because of number one. When marking out your plots make them as long as you want but only dig them a metre and a half (or less), wide. There is no hard and fast rule as long as you can access the plot from either side without standing on the plot.
I am not saying that Double Digging is easy, obviously it is twice as hard, but you only need to do it once for many years to come.
You will have much higher yields, better soil and a much more decorative plot to boot!
Don’t think you have to do it all in a day or dig all your plots this year. We did about half an hour a day each and they were done in no time. We now add a new plot as and when we feel the need.
So, stick on your Dirty Boots and get Double Digging!
For a more self sufficient future