[permaculture] Double-dug?

Dick Pierce dickpiercedesigns at gmail.com
Sun Dec 6 15:44:45 EST 2009

Probably lots of Google diagrams on how to do this - quite simple and
productive but rather labor intensive. John Jeavons is the US Master of this
technique borrowed from the French Intensive Method (fresh veggies to Paris
markets from rural truck farmers for almost 12 months per year). "How to
Grow More Vegetables on Less Land than You Ever Thought Possible" is the
main book I'd recommend.

A typical Google image is copied below - for example for a 4x8 foot bed
(enough to see if you like the sweat equity investment and whether your soil
is amenable), the method is to dig "trenches" 4' long by 1' wide by 10-16"
deep - one foot at a time down the bed. To start, dig the 1st trench at one
4' end of the bed to one spade depth, or so - put this dirt in a wheelbarrow
or other container for later transport to the other end of the bed. Now to
the steady-state - use a spading fork to loosen the soil in the trench to
another spade depth.

Then finish trench 1 and start trench 2 - by digging another 4'x1'x10-16"
trench next to/parallel to the first one, and placing the soil from this
trench 2 into trench 1. Result is a finished, fluffed-up trench 1, and an
open trench 2. Use the spading fork now in trench 2 to loosen the soil well
for another 10-16" in trench 2.

Continue to do this - dig an new trench, put soil in the previous trench,
and then loosen the subsoil in the new trench with the spading fork. Most
people use a 2x4' piece of plywood to stand on while digging - this nicely
defines the far edge of the new trench and provides a little leverage to the
spade during the digging. Move the 2'x4' a foot for each new trench. The
plywood keeps the mud/dirt somewhat off of your boots and keeps your feet
from compacting the soil.

At the end of the bed you should have a trench that has been spaded out and
loosened to another spade's depth (that is, double dug), but with no next
trench to provide back-fill soil - use the soil excavated from the very 1st
trench that is in the wheel-barrow to fill it.

That's the basics in words - you'll get it better from the diagram below or
other image on google and best by doing it. It is better with a friend(s) to
urge you on and to share the task with you. Plants and plant roots love it -
so do soil microbes as they use the loose pore structure created for root
hairs to suck up minerals and O2 in solution in the newly created pores.

We have very heavy clay here in C-TX and sometimes very shallow topsoils.
Double digging won't work if you don't have at least 2 spade depths of
topsoil. And heavy clay soils are tough, tough, tough to dig. But every
gardener/farmer should do one bed once to see if the effort and the results
are worth it - both often substantial. After 1-2 times of double digging,
soil microbes and plant roots should take over the job of keeping the soil
full of pore space for water, air, and root hairs.

Good luck with it - fall/winter is a good time to do this on unfrozen,
reasonably dry ground vs. the hot sun of late spring/summer - it's aerobic
enough in cold weather.

Dick Pierce

On Sun, Dec 6, 2009 at 2:06 PM, Jeff <toobeeorknottoobee at gmail.com> wrote:

> Just curious, can someone give me an explanation or a how to on double
> digging a plot for biointensive plantings?
> -Jeff
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