From "The Duke of Dirt"
(aka.. my master gardener Dad!)
How to DOUBLE DIG
Hello minions of the dirt. As all gardeners know growing good plants begins with the soil.
Well here is an inexpensive way to get the most out of your soil. It is called double digging and it is an old trick that I believe came out of France many years ago. It was taught to me by my son, Lance .
The idea is simple, but it is labor intensive. So, if you have a relatively strong back, read on. As our soils age the nutrients tend to leach downward, out of the tiller’s reach. Double digging is a way to turn that process around.
To start with lay out an old tarp, large piece of plastic or shower curtain on the ground next to the plot of ground you want to dig. With a sharp shovel dig down one full shovel depth across the whole space of your plot and deposit this dirt on the tarp. This layer of soil contains all of your plant residue, including green leaves.
Next, dig down another shovel depth and deposit this soil in a separate pile on your tarp. If you are like me, you may want to dig three times and start three piles of dirt.
To save my back, I tend not to get a full shovel full of dirt when I dig, so it takes me three shovel depths to dig deep enough. The idea is to turn over the layers of soil so that your deeper layers are on top, and your surface layers are down deep.
Depending on how rocky your soil is, you may want to use some kind of sieve on your bottom layers to remove rocks. For a sieve, we used an old plastic milk crate that we picked up cheaply at a garage sale. It is sturdy, cheap and works great.
Next, use a pick ax (or other digging tool) to loosen up the exposed layer of dirt. Once this is done, deposit the upper layer of dirt with the green leaves into the hole. Till it with a hoe (or other tilling tool), so that any growing plants are well broken up.
Level out this layer of soil before depositing the next layer of soil in the hole. (Save the soil from the deepest layer for last.) Till the new layer (as before).
Deposit the last layer (or bottom layer of soil that you have saved), back into the hole. Till this up and add a layer of compost to this layer.
Once you have tilled this layer in, you are ready to plant.
What you have just done is flip your soil layers and tilled or loosened your soil to depths that will promote easy root growth of your plants. This technique has been used for centuries to revitalize old garden plots when money is short and labor is cheap. It really works.
"Till" next time... Keep digging.
Duke of Dirt.
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.