There is much debate on whether or not double-digging is a good idea. Some big-time gardening experts say you should; others say, “No way!”
To dig or not to dig? That is the question. Double digging is purported to be one of gardening’s time-honored traditions and is mentioned in some of the greatest gardening guides around, even in a few of my favorites.
Being a visual learner, for the longest time, I didn’t understand the concept. Here is the visual for people like myself so you understand the concept (please excuse my crude illustration):
How to Perform Double Digging
Dig a trench in Area 1 that is 12–18″ wide and about the depth of your spade. Put the soil you dig up into a lawn cart.
Move to Area 2 and repeat the process, only this time, instead of putting the soil you remove into the cart, you put it into the trench you dug in Area 1.
Continue this pattern until you reach the end (in our fabulous diagram, Area 5). This time, when you have finished loosening the soil and adding amendments, you put the soil from the lawn cart on top.
Why Double Dig Your Garden?
So why would a person want to do this much manual labor? There are several reasons:
- It aerates the soil.
- It allows for easier root penetration at greater depths, which is great for root crops (see below).
- It improves soil drainage by breaking up areas that are compacted.
- Adding amendments to the topsoil makes it easier for earthworms and rainwater to incorporate the amendments into the soil at the root level.
Here is another great artistic work to show the benefits of double-digging:
I’m not sure about the state of your carrots, but mine tend to be short, little stubby things and never worth the effort of canning.
See Carrot Woes for tips for getting carrots to germinate.
Why NOT to Double Dig?
There is some research, however, that says not to double-dig. There is an entire ecosystem under that topsoil that can easily be destroyed when disrupted. There have been side-by-side tests of gardens that have been double-dug versus those that haven’t, and often times the more compact soil performs better.
So that brings us back to the age-old question. To dig or not to dig? I’m not going to tell you the answer. I don’t even know the answer. What I do know is what has worked for me. I save myself a lot of back-breaking work by not double-digging except when I am adding a new garden space or when I am planting root crops. Carrots are not too picky when it comes to nutrients, but they are very picky about dense soil and obstructions like rocks.
Do you double-dig your gardens? What have your results been like?