Help us achieve our goals:
make a donation »
Join the RHS today and
support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Make a donation
Join the RHS today and support our charity
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
Double digging may be hard work but it is perfect for creating new borders and deepening shallow topsoil.
Double digging is a useful way of cultivating soil in new gardens and in situations where deep topsoil is required. Ordinary digging is good enough for most circumstances.
Choose double digging over other methods of soil cultivation where the soil is compacted, where ground has not been previously cultivated, where demanding long-term plants such as asparagus are planned or when making raised beds. All bare ground is suitable for double digging.
It is not necessary to double dig every year, but on poor or heavy soils and in vegetable gardens it may be needed every three to five years. Otherwise borders only need double digging at their creation and on total replanting.
Double digging is ideally done in autumn and winter when the ground is moist, but not waterlogged or frozen. The ground then has time to settle after digging and, on heavy soils, for the frost to break down the clods before planting in spring. If the soil conditions are good, then double digging can be carried out any time of year.
What does double digging entail? Here are some steps to take;
Allow the soil to settle before planting. If dug in autumn, this usually happens naturally by spring. But if the soil is still very soft, lightly tread the plot first.
Double digging is not always necessary and if time and physical strength prevent this very hard work, be aware that ordinary soil cultivation is often good enough, or else you can make raised beds or control weeds with weedkillers.
Pre-warming soilRaised bedsSeedbed preparationSoil: cultivationSoil typesSoil: understanding pH and testing soilTopsoil: buying
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
Register for the site or sign in to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9