Post by ottawagardener on Dec 28, 2008 13:15:49 GMT -5
After reading many a book, I have come to the conclusion that most soils do better with very minimal digging but then again there are the proponents of double digging for intensive cultivation though this technique (from what I've read) pioneered by Jeavons et el... seems resouce intensive as well, ie. lots of water, composts or green manures etc...
Anyhoo, I use the permanent path, minimal digging technique and add soil ammendments like compost, leaves etc... to the top for the worms to dig in but I understand that double digging is useful in certain circumstances such as when initially installing and ammending very poor soil.
Garden is a clearing in the woods grading from shallow, rocky soil supporting a maple bush to a pine forest planted on sandy soil and a clay bottomland with spruce and tamarack.
Post by plantsnobin on Dec 28, 2008 13:56:00 GMT -5
I think that it may have its place in some instances, perhaps in newly built areas where there may have been heavy equipment driving over an area. It really shouldn't be needed after a couple of years of mulching or cover crops. Bless Jeavons' heart, he may have believed strongly, but notice how there were always young hard bodies around him doing the digging? That would be fine if you had plenty of new age hippie types hanging around, but too hard for this old fat woman. I tried a bit of that this spring on new ground. Managed about 10 by 10 foot area before I said, screw this, I am going to the house.
I agree. There is a time and place for digging or using a garden tiller, but not very often. Usually on very hard clay soils, but only at the beginning until the ground starts getting softer by other means. I also find digging in any form is almost never a solution for firmly established weeds, which have to be killed first, usually with mulch.
Post by canadamike on Dec 28, 2008 17:41:22 GMT -5
Diging and tilling end up being usefull in my potery clay. If I was in sand I would sing another song.
Uprooting weeds is a back killing chore in my soil, tilling makes it much easier. There is an unspoken for element in any soil, it is the back of the gardener...
Ottawa is blessed with sand. This summer, for the first time in my life, I garden in 2 patches of sand that were added years ago over the clay soil.
It is a totally different experience, much more pleasing and way softer on my aching back and shoulder...
Double digging in clay is a good thing. We have to understand it is not a yearly thing, but a one time thing or something done once in a while, otherwise it is way too cumbersome in a very large garden like mine for a single person.
All those saying no tilling should be used in hardpan clay are surrealists that need a little reality check, surely not trying to make a living off the land.... not to say it is impossible, but it would have to be done very slowly on a large property while more ''interfering '' systems would be used elsewhere to provide more immediate results.
Post by pigletwillie on Dec 28, 2008 19:04:36 GMT -5
Most of my beds are "no dig", but in reality this means I have to dig occasionally but in limited areas. As the beds are all 4' wide, they are not trodden on so are not compacted.
However, to get soil friable and open enough to get to this stage has taken 3 years and includes ad lib addition of organic matter in the way of leaf mould, compost and well rotted manure. Heavier clay beds have also had lots of sharp sand dug in to open the structure of the soil.
As for double digging, I havent bothered with digging up the second spit down as I can see no usefull purpose in bringing subsoil to the surface. All I did was to break open the pan and gently fork in some organic matter.
No dig takes time and effort, but then the results are worth it with the resultant soil fauna relatively undisturbed and good textured soil to plant in.
Post by canadamike on Dec 28, 2008 20:22:14 GMT -5
In double digging, the subsoil is supposed to stay just that, subsoil. But it is amended or simply aerated and loosened. As you say piglet, even when we aim for it we have to go the other way around sometimes.
My clay cooks to excellent ''county fair'' potery contest standards in the summer , and it is hard to mulch acres.... at least once tilled water can soak in between the crumbles
I tried, and I mean I really freaking tried that double digging thing this fall. On the surface it seems like a good idea, but I soon came to realize that I relish my back to much to be doing much of that type of work.
I think that any method of soil amending and building has it's merits, but I think raised beds, lasagna gardening, and plain old tilling or disking (not with a roto tiller mind you) are all better and easier methods.
My new method will rely on raised beds made with a disc hiller. The basic premise will be to use my manure spreader which is four foot wide to make swaths of fertility four foot wide and then skip a three foot section for an isle (which will mulched with straw) and then followed by another bed and so on. The next step will be to use the disc hiller to make the initial hill (same width as the manure spreader) and then to go back over top of that with another swath from the manure spreader and then once again with the hiller. This will give me beds about 8-10 inches high and four foot wide and already amended. I'll be using vermicompost for this which will have already have been limed. I'll work each hill for three years and then plow the field and use the previous isle for the new set of hills, over time I will have built up the fertility of the entire field.
I will use an old fashioned drag disc on plowed ground to initially work the soil, cover crops will be used in the winter and in the spring of the following year I'll till the beds with a push tiller and add a new layer of vermicompost and soil.
I'll report back in the spring, summer, and fall with results and pictures.
Just a farmer/gardener with a message board! homegrowngoodness.blogspot.com Average last frost May 10, First Frost October 15'th. Hot and Humid Summers. Full sun plots, rolling hills, plots planted on southern and south western facing slopes. Greenhouses kept at 70 Degrees F.
Post by ottawagardener on Dec 29, 2008 8:35:06 GMT -5
That is the most common thing I've read that double digging is used initially in clay soils until the structure improves. I have also heard of people building raised beds on top of clay though I can envision that depending on the 'seriousness' of the clay that would result in a pond lining like bottom on your raised beds.
The hardest soil I've ever worked when it came to my back was Gulf Island rock soil. You cannot dig it. May I repeat, no digging. You have to use a pick ax or other special crowbar like tools to pry rock and soil loose to create planting spots. This was in my mother's garden and at the end of a day of crowbaring soil for her, I was thinking she should just truck in some nice friable mix to toss overtop.
Post by canadamike on Dec 29, 2008 10:15:31 GMT -5
Good. It seems like we are having an agreement as to the human back being a form of soil improvement
Alan, I exploded in laughter when I read your post.
I could see you all full of spirit going at it like I did when almost your age, the heart full of good nurturing intentions for the Oh ! So beloved land under your feet until you just yelled a giant FUCK OFF!! to the clouds like I REALLY DID, throwing away the frigin steel bar as far as I could from myself and immediatly going for the beer fridge . Vivianne even got out of the house running thinking I had hurt myself
I then farted like a king and drank the whole 12 pack. thjat was the end of me and double digging...
Telsing, you are right, in very hard clay there is this pond lining element at certain times, mostly when it is hard rain after a dry period, otherwise it is OK with the raised beds.
Anyway, apart from cash crops, I can't imagine gardening for vegies in clay without raised beds. What a loss of time and energy...and especially harvest. On raised beds, there is some drainage in the rain, and it means less cooking of the clay when it dries up.
Post by lavandulagirl on Dec 29, 2008 12:42:05 GMT -5
When I lived in Virginia, we had all red clay soil. I did a combination that proved very time consuming, but also provided a very fruitful garden (and terrific back muscles for me!)
Once an area was staked out as garden bed, I dug out about 1 foot of soil, amended the clay, mixed in compost, leaf litter, etc as well. Then I built 18" raised bed sides out of wood, and put them in place. Finally, I put all the amended soil back in, resulting in an 18" raised bed that was actually 2 and a half feet deep. If potatoes were going in the bed, I planted the seed potatoes, then, using stakes and chicken wire, built a bin to grow them in, adding straw as they grew. Potatoes hate clay soil, and I wanted a lot of potatoes! The straw would rot over the summer, once the potatoes were harvested, and I would spread it over all the beds in the fall. In time, through adding more and more amendments on top of the beds I had originally double dug, they became very deep, despite only showing that 18" above ground. The sides, below ground, as Michel said, were originally similar to a buried terracotta pot, but they amended over time as well.
I must know what going rogue will mean exactly? Violet lettering?
Nope, the text color is generally in reference to my sweet, purple prose. Also, it makes it so much easier for me to find my own posts, which for a megolomaniac like myself, is of tantamount importance!
No, the "going rogue" reference is both a poke at Alan, because I enjoy giving him grief, and also an oblique reference to an Americanism, which has "going rogue" just about equal to going completely off script and crazy. The question, therefore, is why hasn't someone else pointed this out for me? Geez... I have to do everything myself! ;D ;D ;D
It's comforting for me to see so many of you regard double digging as mostly unnecessary. Nearly all British gardening books seem to regard it as essential for vegetable growing (and I learned everything I know from books) but as Karen says, being a woman does impose some practical limitations. Back in the days when I had an allotment, all the other plots belonged to big beefy men who saw it as a point of honour to dig everything out to a depth of about three feet every year, and I felt very inadequate but I just physically couldn't do it.
Michel's experience is very similar to mine. Well, not the farting bit, I do have my dignity. But every time I go skipping down the garden path full of enthusiasm to nurture and turn my beloved soil, and then after I've dug over an area about two feet square I think "fuck this for a game of marbles" and stagger off for a beer. Then in desperation I dump some mulch over it instead (and that leaves me knackered enough).
I am lucky though that my soil is very sandy. I used to live less than a mile away and the soil in my old garden was clay. Amazing how totally different it is just a short distance up the road. The subsoil here is pure sand, only a foot or two below the surface, which gives me a good excuse not to double-dig ... there's no point bringing solid sand up to the surface. My soil stays diggable in almost all weathers, never gets waterlogged and never stays frozen for very long, and although it can bake hard in the summer it's easily softened. It also has no stones in it, so it's really like crumbly chocolate cake. I'm very fortunate and I have no complaints.
But despite that, I have the body of a weak and feeble woman and I really can't do much digging. I tend to grow everything in little patches because I don't have the physical stamina to prepare whole rows!
You know, while sand is a lot easier, I also miss my previous garden that was heavy clay. Yes digging was an issue, but at the beginning a roto-tiller took care of that, and after a few years of adding compost it really softened up. What I grew then was always much larger than what I'm growing now, and it tasted better in part because of it's proximity to the sea with lots of minerals, and the subtle taste this gave lots of things. Garlic rust was less of an issue, and the garlic I grew then was huge. Five pound cabbages were not uncommon, huge carrots and celeriac. Nothing seems to grow as well now. For all of it's drawbacks, clay can be very fertile.