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Double digging

Double digging is a method of deeply working the soil, and is ideal for creating raised beds, or normal beds of very well-drained soil in areas where drainage is a problem. It involves removing the topsoil, cultivating the subsoil, and returning the worked topsoil to its original location; as such, it's an arduous process best done over several days, and only once. A loose, very well-draining soil results, and the resulting bed need in future years only be worked lightly with hoe and fork before planting.

The process is simple: starting at one end of the bed, remove the soil from a trench some 12-24" wide and the depth of the spade, setting this aside in a dump cart or on tarp spread onto the ground. Next, dig the subsoil at the base of this trench, again to the depth of your spade, very thoroughly until nice and loose, and rocks have been removed.

Move over and dig a second trench along the first, loosening the soil well as you remove it, and tossing rocks aside. Deposit this well-worked topsoil onto the worked subsoil of the first trench, filling it in completely; the soil will naturally mound to some degree. Next, work the subsoil of the second trench as before. Then start a third trench and continue this process, using its topsoil to fill trench number two, etc., until the other end of the bed has been reached.

When finished - again, double digging takes plenty of time and effort - fill the final trench with the topsoil removed and set aside when the first trench was dug. Limit yourself to creating only one or two beds a year in this fashion.

Topics Referenced

Raised Beds

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