Double Digging Soil: Soil preparation

One hot topic in gardening is whether you use a plow, hand dig or double dig a garden.

I use both methods. I prefer to hand dig, it’s easier on the soil structure and you have more control over removing weeds and adding nutrients. But hand digging is time consuming and if you have a big garden almost impossible.

Double digging is often used in small gardens and in the Square Foot Gardening method

If you decide to hand dig or double dig your garden as it’s sometimes called, here’s the way to go about it.

Mark your garden site. Then mentally mark out a one-foot section horizontally or vertically. If there is grass on the your garden site, remove it by just cutting beneath the top of the thatch. It’s amazing how easy you can peel back the grass. You can break it up and compost it or shape it and use it in other areas of you yard where you need to fix a bald or damaged yard area.

Break up the soil about six to nine inches deep and remove from this trench like area. Just pile to the outer side of your garden. Mark out another one-foot section and break up the soil. At this time I add compost, fertilizer and any other nutrients. I stir it up in the trench and then move it over the furthest part of the trench leaving a bare spot for more soil closest to where you are digging.

Continue this process until you have finished the garden. At the far side you will not have enough soil. It’s over on the other side where you removed it at the beginning. Take a wheel barrel and collect the dirt. Add more compost, fertilizer and any other nutrients and fill the last area of the garden.

Advantages of Double Digging

Double Digging is easier on soil structure. You can add nutrients and compost and work it into the soil better. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get weed roots out of the soil and cut back drastically on those stubborn returning weeds.

I have noticed when I double-dig my soil stays looser during the season making successive planting easier.

Two garden tips

1. I do not walk on my soil once it’s prepared for planting. I either have rows I walk down or I place boards down to walk on. Most of my gardens are raised beds with aisles. If you don’t walk on your garden soil you can easily take a hoe and loosen the soil and you are ready to plant.

2. The first year I double-dug my garden I made sure I never stepped on the soil. I put a light mulch on the top of the soil to hinder weed growth in areas I was not using. When I needed these areas I pulled back the mulch and planted. There was no digging needed to plant! I also put a heavy mulch on the gardens in the fall after removing any dead plants and ignored the garden until spring. In the spring I pulled back the heavy mulch and was able to plant with out re-digging the soil.

I went three years without seriously digging the garden area. The only reason I had to dig the garden again is I did not cover the garden with heavy mulch the one year. It probably needed to be reworked and have a lot of new nutrients added anyways.

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2 responses to “Double Digging Soil: Soil preparation”

  1. Leo

    Hi Denise

    This is a wonderful article about getting the garden site ready for planting. I use to first dig the ground to loosen the soil to pick up the old plant, then I would compost it and leave it for a day, then plant down the new plants or sometimes I would plant tubers down. Then water them well. It was hard work but I loved it. It is a good idea about the mulch. Why didn’t I think of that? One always learn new simple things like that. Though I have given up gardening due to my bad back pain.
    By the way I love your website. It is lovely.

  2. admin

    I gave up gardening for a few years due to a back injury but the back is better and I try and simplify the gardening as much as possible. Thank you for you comments, Denise

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