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Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Posted by nutsaboutflowers 2b/3a (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 25, 11 at 12:49

Has anyone here gone to the trouble of double digging their garden?

I'm removing a patch of lawn. For now it's only going to be about 4 x 8 or so. I'm running short of homemade compost and am really reluctant to bring in any "soil" from elsewhere. I really don't trust what's in it and I'm going to be possibly planting vegetables in part of it. I'm extending an existing bed that has a mishmash of perennials and my rose bushes.

So, back to double digging. I've read it really can make a difference. Is it worth it, or am I just as likely to have success just putting compost in the top few inches and planting in that?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

I have never done any double digging and believe me at this stage of my life it isn't ever likely to happen. If you like your native soil then I would just amend it a little bit (till in lightly at most) and plant. I usually use the lasagna method of layering although you have already removed the sod so you have a headstart for a vegie garden.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

I'm not even sure what the term means - is it when you till the soil then till it again to incorporate compost? I used to do that every year with my vegetable garden, and still did it when I started my flower gardens at this house. Since I started making some much bigger gardens all at once I've stopped though. I just edge, roundup, and plant straight in. My only complaint is that my soil is always dry and also a little nutrient poor. But the bed I double dug is just as bad as the rest after 5 years.

There are a couple of theories against tilling - one is that it disturbs weed seeds and causes more sprouting, the other is that there are beneficial fungi in the soil with long (fibres?) something like that - that are broken up and compromised by tilling. Anyway, I'm sure either way it won't make too much difference in the long run.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Never done "double digging" per se but I have certainly removed lots of lawn in this yard. I, or rather my DH, just removed the sod and left as much dirt as possible then I ammended it with manure, top soil, and alfalfa pellets. By spring it was wonderfully soft and grew veggies like nothing else! I even put the tomatoes right in. :) This year I added hmmmmmmm.....nothing! Just a bit of vegie food to the toms and peas. Hope this helps. :)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

I've used the lasagna method and liked it. That's what the part I'm extending is from. However, I had all of my own ingredients when I did it.

The "soil" I brought in for a flower bed a few years back was crap, and not good cow crap, just really sandy and mucky and terrible for drainage. I won't do that again.

That's why I'm considering double digging this time around.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging cont'd

Good grief! I started writing my reply, went outside for a while, and then came back and finished it without realizing anyone else had posted. Sorry.

Double digging is when you dig up a row the width of your shovel and dump that over in a row on the other side of where you want to get to. Then you shovel a row beside where you just dug, dumping it into the first row to fill it back up. Then you dig another row, fill up your second one and so on, until you're done. =:) Apparently it works like a charm. You can add compost as you go along, too. I think DH must have done it years and years ago, because he knows what it is, but hasn't gardened since "forever". It's probably what they did in the good old days when everybody grew their own vegetables =:)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging..........

Darn. The last time I was out "just looking" I forgot to check into alfalfa pellets. You said they were good for the iris patch, too =:)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

If that is what double digging is, then I "invented" it when I was a kid. Then, I've been double digging all my life. It certainly is a good thing to do.

But no, that's not what I call double digging. IMO, this is double digging:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W85QmZgDxFk

Whether you use a shovel or a fork depends more on the type of soil and level of moisture, and the condition/sharpness of you digging tools. You will find that one will work better than the other. I might even switch if part of the garden is drier than the other. Some people like to completely turn over the two layers of soil, effective mixing it all together, but most of the time, it is better to keep the lower layer where it is.

Rick


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

I use them for irises always. In fact, that is what I originally bought them for and fed the rest to the bunnies all winter. Then I just threw them into the garden my DH dug for my irises and they became a staple to add as they seemed to lighten the soil. I still dig them in to the iris beds twice a year and mix a few in with my soil mix for perennial pots. They are getting expensive now and my local guy isn't going to be carrying them so I will have to go out of town to get them.

If you are digging anyway, dig in as many fallen leaves as you can. They are one of the best soil boosters. We also have an Edmonton compost facility. Black gold! :)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Yes, leftwood, the video you referred me to is a version of double digging. I don't use the pitch fork to dig further down because it's pure clay, but I do use the pitch fork to loosen the chunks. I also flip the soil over, not just swoosh it around like the guy in the video. Ha! Ha! If you invented it, you're the world's oldest person, LOL! I think double digging was probably used hundreds of years ago in Europe or somewhere. My DH was probably taught by his grandfather, and he was probably taught by his father, etc. I hope you've taught all of your family =:)

honalee - yes, thanks for the reminder to use leaves. In the fall I sometimes chip up the leaves and throw them back on the lawn, but I'll be sure to save some for my new garden bed.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Lynn ~ All the old timers around here have used leaves every fall and most of them dig by hand. They have soil like talc! Dad has been doing it all his life here since we don't have any horses. :)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

That's how I used to dig the vegetable garden. Not anymore, I have raised beds. I have a difficult physical job now and I don't think I could come home at night and work that hard.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Gil ~ I can't do it anymore either so I'd like to get a leaf chopper and just dig them into raised beds. It's in the plans anyway. :)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

The area I'm talking about will probably eventually end up as raised beds. Problem is, my friend says I need a plan. I have a plan, I just don't know for sure what it is =:) I'm just not very good at picturing the end result.

I wonder if Konrad and Don double dig their huge gardens.....


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

LMAO! "I have a plan, I just don't know what it is". You sound like me! I have LOTS of plans...........for somewhere!
I think most people Rototill their large gardens. Dad did both. He would turn the leaves and such in by hand in the fall and RT in the spring before planting. The old guy down the road still hand turns every fall. He has to be Dad's age which is 91 and FR across the back lane is 92 and still digs! Or tries to! I think his grandkids help out.

I like to browse around on the web and find pics of garden ideas and save them. Then I can better put it together in my minds eye. Just an idea. :)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

No.

Double digging is not really recommended these days.

The problem is one of soil integrity. You are taking two feet worth of soil and disturbing it.

Nature knows what it is doing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Double digging is bad, bad bad.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

It's definitely true that many farmers are turning to zero-tillage these days. They don't till or burn stubble anymore, just fertilize and plant straight into it.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Oh No ! I better hurry up and do something. Botanus is sending out their orders, so mine should be here soon. The area I've been talking about isn't for the bulbs, but still....

So much to do and so little time =:)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Ha! Ha! If you invented it, you're the world's oldest person, LOL!

Well, I am over a half century old... :)
But to be fair, I didn't mean I "invented" the double digging as described in the video. Sorry if I came over as righteous.

I have to agree that double digging (as in the video) is only good in rare cases. It's too bad the WSU page didn't go into detail about it. Destroying soil structure is such a broad statement and can mean many things. But it is accurate, especially when clay soil is involved.

Rick


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Wasn't sure what it meant until I watched the video.
It's very old tradition and still used today, it's like farmers plow their fields, more so in Europe. These plows are very high tech, what they do is, they cut the top, about 1 inch of the sod, weeds off, this gets tossed into the furrow deep down and the good soil gets thrown on top. A very green way to go, weed control with none or less chemical.

By hand it's hard work, I used to do it for my Mom in her home garden late fall just before freeze up with the heavy garden fork,...don't you have any boy's?
I call this turning over, bring the bottom to the top as much as possible, [not like video] hopefully bringing up some of the bad critters and or eggs, the deep freeze should get rid of some.
We always laid down a bit of manure in the groove, then turning the soil on top of it.
I know it's hard work, the best of all I like in spring when all those clumps have fallen apart and just a bit of raking or tilling needed. My old tractor I fire up one's a year only for this task, using a plow. If I had a fence, then I could not do it ...takes allot of room. I was thinking already...perhaps get rid of this old junk, build a deer fence and get a little garden tractor with tiller, till in fall with all the left over, then again in spring.


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

LOL Rick! I think most of us are over half a century old which is probably why NONE of us wants to single dig let alone double dig! ;)


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RE: Pros and Cons of Double Digging

Well, it all depends on the crop you want to grow and the time frame. There is no right or wrong answer. Grain farmers are working on time frames of decades. For them, in the long term, no-till is the way to go.

IF you plan to grow carrots or parsnips, or any kind of non-adapted crops (eggplant, okra), double digging will probably give you good returns in the short term. In the long term, lasagna gardening is still superior though.

If you're just growing stuff that grows well in Saskatchewan, like beets, chard, or broccoli, save yourself the labour and just plant into the ground as it is.


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