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Double Dig: step 4: Trenches

26 May 2012

The past month has been quite busy between gardening, work, and personal matters.  I actually did this three weeks ago and am just now getting around to updating this blog about it.  I have several other posts worth of material, too.  I’ll be posting it all this week, hopefully, just as soon as I can get it prepared.

The final part of the double dig is to remove the top layer of soil, which has already been dug and loosened, and loosen the layer beneath it.  This is done in trenches moving across the bed, completing one trench, then moving the top layer adjacent to it onto the newly loosened lower layer, then digging a new trench where that soil had been.  Jeavons says this can all be done with a spading fork and shovel, but I suspect Jeavons didn’t have to deal with Carolina red clay in Palo Alto.  It starts about 10 inches beneath the soil, and it’s quite compact and hard.  Instead, after I raked and shoveled the soil to the side (usually on top of the previous trench), I loosened the clay with a heavy mattock.  Jeavons says this takes 2 to 4 hours in a 100 square foot bed, but it took me at least 10 hours in a 78 square foot bed.  Half the time it took me to do this was spent removing the last remaining wiregrass roots and rocks.  My garden plot is full of rose quartz, apparently.  It’s actually quite pretty, but I couldn’t get any pictures of it to turn out well.

A four and a half minute video of my technique.

I suspect most of my troubles will be eliminated now that the clay is loosened and if I can keep out the wiregrass.  I dug my sister’s garden for her, and she requested I do a double dig just like I did in my garden.  I should have documented this event for this blog, but I didn’t think anything new and interesting would occur, so I didn’t bother.  I was quite wrong, though.  The soil at her house is very different.  My garden is at the top of a large hill in full sun, covered in wiregrass and full of clay.  Her garden is at the bottom of a hill next to a creek in partial shade.  Wiregrass doesn’t do as well in the shade and is easily removed, and the top layer of soil is deeper, richer, and looser, however I did hit the ubiquitous red clay a little over a foot below the surface.  She has also kept her garden well maintained and has worked it continuously, while my parents have not worked this garden plot consistently for over a decade.  We have planted a few of the same things, so it will be interesting to see the difference!


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  1. c4faith permalink

    Said sister is quite happy you used the double-dig method on her garden, too.

    I wonder how much of the soil difference is because of location or just because, as you mentioned, we’ve used our garden more in the past few years and we amended the soil a decent bit the first year we made the garden.

    Either way, I agree that it’ll be interesting to see the difference. I’m pretty excited about seeing the fruits of this (ahem, your) labor in future years, too. Thanks for your work!!

    • You’re welcome. Let’s get some pictures of how things are growing in both our gardens later to compare, especially the tomatoes and peppers.

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