[permaculture] Double-dug?

Jacque Greenleaf jacque at book-woman.net
Mon Dec 7 17:18:22 EST 2009

I think whether or not you should double-dig depends on where or why  
you're doing it. Growing annual crops intensively is more similar to  
container gardening than to field cropping or food forests. If you're  
trying to grow annual food crops on sub-par soil, double-digging is a  
proven tactic. But given the annual hard labor involved, I'd skip the  
double digging and instead build fairly deep (18" or so) raised beds,  
add lots of organic matter, use sheet mulch, and rotate so that at  
least one bed is fallow and cover cropped. Done right, those raised  
beds can become a perpetual source of improved garden soil which can  
then be spread around perennials growing in the native soil.

But then I live in a climate where raised beds are a good choice. They  
also are not a one-size-fits-all tactic.

On Dec 7, 2009, at 8:34 AM, Tripp Tibbetts wrote:

> Yes!  Deep cultivation is a practice that is slowly being  
> abandoned.  Heresy in some circles, I know...
> The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow.
> -Chinese proverb
> --- On Mon, 12/7/09, Golden Love <goldenlove at cruzio.com> wrote:
> From: Golden Love <goldenlove at cruzio.com>
> Subject: Re: [permaculture] Double-dug?
> To: "'permaculture'" <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Date: Monday, December 7, 2009, 3:08 PM
> Doesn't double digging destroy soil structure?
> Golden Love
> Love's Gardens
> "Your neighborhood solar-powered gardener"  (TM)
> California Licensed Contractor C27 363672
> 127 National St.
> Santa Cruz, CA 95060-6516
> Phone  (831) 471-9100
> Fax  ( 831) 471-9200
> goldenlove at lovesgardens.com
> www.lovesgardens.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Dick  
> Pierce
> Sent: Sunday, December 06, 2009 12:45 PM
> To: permaculture
> Subject: Re: [permaculture] Double-dug?
> 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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There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers,  
having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and  
that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed  
law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most  
beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

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