The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Double digging

Double diggingAnother no-till technique is double-digging, a slightly complicated method of breaking up the soil to a depth of two feet without inverting the soil layers.  Double-digging is extremely laborious, but can result in porous soil that greatly increases vegetable yields, especially in heavy clay soil like ours.  After double-digging, soil doesn't need to be worked for several years, much like the surface cultivation system.

Our modified double-dug raised bedWe used a modified method of double-digging to create our raised beds.  First, Mark tilled up our topsoil, being careful not to go too deep (not a problem with the tiny tiller I had him working with the first year.)  Then I laid out aisles and shoveled the loose soil from the aisles to the side to create raised beds.  The result is a double thickness of loose topsoil without as much of the back-breaking labor of double-digging.  The grassy/clovery aisles between our raised beds produce high quality mulch, protect the soil from erosion, and promote water infiltration (rather than runoff) during heavy rains.

After the first year, we put the rototiller away and spend the rest of our time weeding, applying manure, and mulching.  I'd recommend our bed system to anyone, with just one caveat.  Raised beds don't work well in sandy soil or extremely hot climates where the soil will dry out rapidly.  Of course, if you have sandy soil, increasing soil porosity won't be a problem for you anyway.

This post is part of our lunchtime series reviewing Robert Kourik's Designing and Maintaining your Edible Landscape Naturally.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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