4 min read

Thursday 13 - Double Digging the garden bed.

It's that time of year again. Time to double dig the garden bed. Last year, a lot of people asked about the double digging. This year, we took pictures at each step so you can see how it works.

How to double dig your garden bed:

1. Here's a gif that describes double digging:

2. This is the second year on this garden bed. The first step is to take off the first layer of dirt:

3. You continue to remove the first layer of dirt. We put 1/2 of top layer on the right side, 1/2 of top layer on the left side:

4. The next step is to remove bottom layer to the one end of the bed. We split the bed and put the rest of the first layer on one end.

5. Now comes the dirt work. Because our soil is clay like, we add dry leaves (collected last fall). The leaves give the soil texture and organic matter. We mix the leaves into the compacted soil with a pickaxe. (Yes, it's that hard.) Because this is only a second year bed, we didn't work this layer last year. If you're starting beds this year, just do as much as you can. You'll get to this layer next year.

6. After mixing in the leaves, we add our homemade compost. We make compost in a 'lazy pile (meaning no compost bin)' by mixing kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, dirt, garden clippings, grass and leaves. We usually create two batches per winter. This winter, we started a new compost so we only had enough homemade for this bed. It's great compost and basically free.

7. This is what the bottom layer looks like after the addition of compost and dry leaves. You can really see the difference when you compare this to picture #4.

8. We return the dirt in reverse order. Last years top, the right side, then the next, the left side, and finally the lower. We add commercial compost to this layer.

9. Then you have to work the lower layer of the other half of the bed. Leaves and homemade compost + pickaxe.

10. This photo shows the difference between the lower layer and the upper layers.

11. This is what the finished bed looks like.

12. Technically we cannot plant until May 15. So this bed will sit for a while - I think of it as 'baking'. We had three beds this size last year and are adding two more. When the second bed is done, I will plant this bed with broccoli, peas and spinach. I will also plant soy, under row covers, as a green manure until we plant. ?(I grow soy because it's cheap. I buy the dry beans in bulk. I'll turn them under before they flower.) I haven't made a garden plan this year, but I will let you know when I have it together.?

13. Why the hell would anyone go to all this trouble?!? You wouldn't believe how often I hear this - particularly from our neighbors.?

  • You can literally grow at least twice size and quantity of vegetables than in a traditional bed.
  • You can grow a bounty of food in a very small space.
  • Using companion planting, you never deplete the soil. You are always improving the soil.
  • Because you have fabulous soil, you can plant closer together and more plants than in a traditional bed.?
  • You can plant along all the edges of the garden which increases your gardening space.
  • You do not poison your soil with petrochemical such as Miracle Grow.?

Here's a funny story. The Jones on our street (as in keeping up with....) had a garden last year. ?They were working on their garden about the same time we put in three double dug beds. Mr. Jones saw us working and said, "Pfft, I'm not doing that!" By mid-summer, he was bragging about his garden to another neighbor and joking about our work. The neighbor asked, 'Have you seen their garden?' Peaking over the fence, he was dumbstruck. (I just saw his little shocked face. I heard the story later.) Being Mr. Jones on the street, he rushed out to buy a box of Miracle Grow petrochemicals. His results? His plants never grew as big or as bountiful as ours. Most of his tomatoes split (due to the burst of nitrogen and water). ?Finally, he resorted to joking about our urban farm. Poor guy. ;)

Moral of the story: A little work and compost will pay off in big ways.

Happy Thursday!