Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Double Digging

For the past month we have been double digging our produce garden. This time honoured technique of digging will provide us with an excellent topsoil, deep rooting zone and well drained vegetable beds. However, this method of cultivation should come with a health warning, it is back breaking work, especially when you have large boulders scattered just below the surface!

So, what is double digging and why are we taking on the challenge? 

This year, we have planned out 6 equally sized vegetable beds, 7 metres in length by 1.5 metres wide, this will give us just under 100sqm of planting area. The double digging process we have pursued is as follows:

- Mark out the vegetable bed; [1]
- With a spade cut the turf layer into small squares; [1]
- Remove approximately 500 cm width of turf layer and put to one side; [1]
- Dig out the soil to approximately two spade depths and also put to oneside (preferably on a tarpaulin), at the same time remove any large stones or boulders; [2]
- Loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench with a fork; [2]
- Scatter organic matter (manure) in the bottom of the trench to about one third of the depth; [3]
- Place cuttings of twigs and branches over the top of the manure; [4]
- Replace the turf dug out at the beginning, but upside down; [5]
- Place a covering of newspaper over the turf; and (finally) [6]
- Cover over with the soil you dug out. [6]

Quite a lengthy process, I think you would agree, but this will be worth the effort. Double digging loosens soil to a greater depth and therefore adds air deeper into the soil which enables roots to grow and the microbes to create good soil structure. This is key to creating the most productive vegetable bed.

Hopefully we will be able to reap the rewards later on in the year...watch this space.

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