Double digging

Double dig to improve the structure and texture of the soil in which your crops will be sown and planted

diggingGardeners of old would often delve deep, going down not one spade’s depth but two (double-digging) or even three (trenching). The horticultural merit of this technique is now considered questionable. Nevertheless, double digging has its uses in getting ground ready for future no-dig regimes, for raised beds, or to counter problems with drainage or soil that is so compacted that roots cannot penetrate deeply.

To double dig, you take out a trench 60cm (18in) wide and a spade’s depth deep. Barrow the excavated soil to the far end of the area to be dug. Then fork or dig over the base of the trench, ideally adding one or two bucketfuls of manure or other organic matter per square metre or yard. The organic matter stabilises the loosened soil, prolonging the benefits of digging for some years (as long as the soil is not trampled or worked when wet).

Then dig out another trench next to the original and shift the soil (fortified with organic matter) into the first trench. The base of this trench is dug over in turn, and so on until the end of the plot. Here, use the original soil from the first trench to fill the last.

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