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How to Double Dig

When setting out new beds in the border, or deep beds in the vegetable garden, the ground needs to be well prepared. This involves incorporating organic matter such as manure or garden compost and making sure that it is well drained.

The best way to do this is to 'double dig' the ground.

First of all dig out a trench across the bed approximately 2' wide and a spade deep, taking all of the soil to the other end of the bed, so that it can be used to fill in the last trench.

Once this is done use a garden fork to break up the soil in the bottom of the trench. You may find, depending upon your soil type, that it is mainly subsoil. If this is the case do not turn the soil over but just break it up to the depth of the fork. When you have done this avoid walking in the trench or the soil will become compacted again. Put a 2"- 3" layer of compost or manure in the bottom of the trench. Start on the second trench, filling the first one with the soil you are removing.

Double digging

Continue down the bed until you reach the last trench. You will fill this with the soil that you removed from the very first trench.

All this may sound like very hard work, and indeed, it is, but it is worth while work and will only need to be done about every five years.

As long as you do not walk on the bed, so avoiding compacting the soil, you will only need to dig the top layer in the years between.

If you split the whole plot into five sections and double dig one section every year, it will reduce the amount of work required each year.

© copyright 1999, P. A. Owen

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