Friday, November 14, 2014

Double Digging

The soil in my beds is pretty good and according to the extension service a little gravely. When we put in the yard we dug down 12" (30cm) and put in good soil (I say "we" but the yard people did it not me). Though the soil is really good, to keep it aerated I fork it over before putting in a new crop. And every year I try to double dig one of the big beds. That way they will all be dug up once every 8 years and they won't get too compacted over time.

In the summer and fall I put on my clogs, but for this I put on sturdy shoes since I'll be digging a lot. I wouldn't want to bruise the bottom of my feet. As I look at my clogs now I think it might be time to replace them with boots. It is getting really cold out there. I'd like to stay warm when I have to make those dreaded cold trips to the compost pile. Anyway, back to my garden soil.

Double digging is a lot of work. It involves digging one spades depth and width into the soil and putting it in a wheelbarrow. Then in the hole you dug, you fork up the bottom, so in effect you are aerating a double depth of soil. You aren't turning the soil over. On the contrary, you are trying to keep the soil profile the same.

You don't want to dig up sub soil and put it on the top of your bed or anything. For my soil it doesn't matter all that much as it was all put in as the same soil. The top few inches tend to be better in my beds because I add compost to the top every year, but that is about the only difference between top and bottom. But for most beds you want to keep the different soils all at their original level. So once you have the bottom forked over. You take the next row of soil over and carefully move it to the spot where you took the first row of soil out, trying not to turn it over, but put it back in the exact same spot. It never works like that as the soil slips from the spade often enough. But that is the theory.

The side on the left was finished. The one on the right hadn't been dug yet. You can see the difference it makes to double dig. The soil is about 3" taller after digging it. That is a lot of air that has been added. Though it will settle over time. And hopefully by next year it will not be over the rim of the bed.

After I did the beds, I added a layer of compost on the top. Now all the beds except the three that have growing things in them (spinach, kale, and bok choy) are covered in compost for the winter.

I had some compost left over. And put it in my storage bin. This is an old plastic bin whose top has a broken latch. So it won't keep out the animals anymore, but no animal really wants the finished compost anyway. I have enough for 2 1/2 more beds. I have three beds to cover. Hopefully there will be a bit more to sift out come spring. I hope so.

The last thing I did to finish up for the winter was to open the garden gates. Usually they are left shut during the growing season to keep the animals out. But for the winter we leave them propped open. So when it snows you can still get into the garden and more importantly, the compost pile.


  1. I quit wearing garden clogs because that's what I was wearing when I sprained my ankle last year. Now it's generally an old pair of trail runners on my feet when I'm out in the garden. I did double dig my beds in my old gardens, it's such a big job but well worth it. That's one advantage to having the enormous raised beds that I grow my veggies in now, no double digging necessary! You will have truly earned a winter break when that job is done.

  2. Lovely garden and you can really see the difference of double digging on your photos. J+C

  3. It's just wet soggy and murky here. Hopefully we will have a harvesting visit to the plot this afternoon

  4. Sounds like great exercise. You will have earned a hot cuppa when you are done. And it should surely help your gardens produce better.

  5. I had not heard of this before, but I can see what a difference it makes. I guess it is just because the dirt gets compacted over time? I should try this with my dug garden but probably not necessary with the raised beds (as I don't walk on top)??

  6. looks great. you can really see the difference in the double digging

  7. The soil on the left of the photo certainly looks lovely. But it definitely is a lot of work. My beds are fairly high & I aerate the soil with a garden fork every time I plant something new. So far, that seems to be enough. Only time will tell, I guess.