Do you double dig?

veggievicki(7b)February 10, 2013

I've been reading the book "MinifarmIng" by Brett mark ham. It's pretty good but he is a pretty strOng advocate of dOuble digging. I don't see the value if you're using an eight inch raised bed. There's not that many Plants that root anywhere near that deep. Pushing two feet of amended soil

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I don't double dig, but I have good farm ground that has been farmed in my family since 1898, so no sod. I agree,that double-digging and then putting an 8" raised bed is MORE than adequate.

Myself, if I was breaking new ground, I'd plant some turnips or other larger root crop and let the crop help break up the soil.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 4:31PM
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I'm breaking new beds on what was a horse paddock. I tore down the old stable and am putting my first beds there. I tilled it with a small pto tiller. This first year I'm basically going with wide raised rows. Not ideal but it's a start.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 5:56PM
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Well, it should be well fertilized and well composted. We tore a old barn down years and years ago. After it was down, we planted turnips, they grew huge. They broke up the ground several inches down. We let most of them stay in the ground and rot. The following year, that was some of the best soil we had. The barn had been home to pigs and chickens about 5 years prior.

If your ground is super hard, double digging might be a good idea, but my back is hurting for anyone that's trying it.

Myself, I would run that tiller over the ground, then let the ground sit for a couple of weeks. During that time, any weed seed might sprout. Then after a couple of weeks, till it again. I wouldn't expect to have a fine soil for the little seeds like carrots, but the larger seeds should do just fine.

Our ground came out of bean stubble the previous year before we started gardening. Otherwise, I did exactly what I recommended in the previous paragraph for any sod or hard-pack.

good luck with your new garden area.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 6:51PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Double digging is great, but not very realistic on a medium to large scale.

New ground, especially where horses have been, could be quite compacted however, and that could effect plant growth. I'd take a fork or shovel and check to see how severe the hard pan is below the tilled soil.
If it's fairly hard, you have a few options.
Using a digging fork or a broadfork to break up the pan every foot or so could be possible, depending on your energy level.
The next step up would be to use your tractor with a chisel plow or better yet a sub-soiler, to really break it up. My sub-soiler below cost me $75 at a farm sale and can be easily borrowed from a neighbor if you ask around. Same for the chisel plow.

I like the idea of using a root crow to help break up compaction, but if it's really dense, few crops can really help much without years to spare.


This post was edited by madroneb on Sun, Feb 10, 13 at 19:52

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:50PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I was just getting on here to suggest that you use a soil ripper to break up they hard pan. I just added the ripper to my toolbar and used it this weekend to "Try it out"

Here is the patch I ripped on Saturday.

I know I had a tiller hardpan and I am going to try to rip all the ground I have. Essentially, I have soil raised beds in every garden spot, so I am going to rip down through each row several times to break them up good. No more cricked carrots and sweet potatoes for me.

Last fall I did plant Daikon Radishes to sell and to see how they would do for breaking up the hardpan inside the high tunnels. I was surprised at how well they did. I could really tell when I was tilling last week where they were. The tiller sucked down 2 to 4 more inches. Then I hit where I had Haikuri turnips and it bounced up. I was really surprised. I am going to try more of this next fall too!


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:40PM
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I forgot to mention that I broke it up with a breaking plow before using the tiller. It seemed to have made for good soil. My dad has a subsoiler, but the plow seemed to dig pretty deep. I get really irritated with these gardening books that tell people starting to garden to put in five or six inches of compost. Who in tarnation has compost by the cubic yard sitting around the place? If there's never been a garden on the place, there isn't likely to be a compost pile.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:50PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I get compost from our city composting site. I use it by the truck and trailer fulls! Yes you get a few rocks and sticks, the occasional pop can or matchbox car, but it has done wonders for my soil. Best of all it is free and they will load it for free on Fridays. However, I can squat a half ton truck in 15 to 20 minutes with a shovel because I can never get there on Fridays! I guess growing up on a farm shoveling grain and manure paid off.

Lots of Compost, all spread by hand


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 11:02PM
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You do realize the gardening books, with a few exceptions, are talking about a 10' x 15' garden, which isn't even one of my beds. We tried double digging with 2 beds before realizing we could not get done what needed to be done (opening up at least 150 50' x 4' beds) so went with a plow on our BCS and than tilled. if we had a spading machine we could have done the double digging in a week or two but they cost thousands of dollars and really need a 65hp or larger tractor with a really low creep gear, something we do not have.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:40AM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Vicki, of course nobody just has a huge pile of compost just laying around, you have to build one!

Compost doesn't have to be made entirely of plant residue, most of mine is made from local chicken and cow manure I buy. Like Jay said, you can get material by the ton and save a lot of money.
If you want to go super cheap, drive around the country with a truck and see if you can find it for free. People with lots of animals generate lots of animal waste. They will sometimes pay you to take it!

Boulderbelt, I farmed with friends years back and we bought a 4' spader. It worked just fine on the 32 hp. Kubota. I still wouldn't compare it to double digging, it was more of a deep tilling (8") without leaving as much hard-pan behind. It only worked well if the soil consistency was juuusst right.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 1:26PM
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I may look for a chisel plow. It looks like it goes in deeper than the breaking plow. This two point plow is actually a bit oversized for my small Ford. I might could break pretty close to even if I sold the breaking plow. Can you offset the chisel plow? I plan to have blackberries and blueberries and leave turf in between the rows. Still some cultivating right along the edges would be good. I also found some bulk compost. A fellow I go to church with has a sod farm and they sell a 15 yard dump truck load delivered for $150. The city has a mulch yard but it's on the opposite side from me out in the country also. The time and gas for me to make equivalent trips doesn't seem like too bad a trade off to have it delivered. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a girl and five feet tall, so there are just times it's better to spend the money than try to do it myself!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:51PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

I hear you about the work it takes to do a lot of this stuff, it's hard on the body.

As far as compost, find out what it is they make it out of. Could it be just old sod? Often it's made up of waste wood, which doesn't do much for your fertility. Animal manure compost is always the biggest bang for your bucks.
Chisel plows come in all shapes and sizes. They can usually be offset a little, but most of the adjustments are done by moving the individual chisel teeth around on the bar they attach to. You can remove them from the edges to only plow the space between the tires if you like.
Hope this helps a little. Honestly, with a good digging fork, you can break up a lot of ground in an afternoon without working yourself too hard....


    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 1:24PM
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