As you may have already read, I spent a heap of time this spring double digging our garden beds. Following John Jeavons’ techniques (described in “How to Grow More Vegetables”), I mixed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of homemade compost deep into the soil. Although I never got the six-pack abs that I had hoped to gain from all of the upper-body exercise, I’m happy to report that the work itself has paid off.
Having just gotten back from a 12-day trip (my 25th high school reunion, the 2nd Annual Slow Money Conference, and my sister’s fantastic Buddhist wedding) in northern New England, one thing is clear. Double digging works! Plants in the the double-dug beds are now twice the size of the plants we planted in the other beds (which got soil amending with the same homemade compost but were not double dug to a depth of 24”). Tonight we feasted on a garden-grown dinner: tomato, cilantro, and scallion omelet coupled with huge sides of luscious chard and fortifying kale.
Tomorrow, the first of three 30-yard loads of Soilutions’ compost will be delivered to a job site down the street where we will be doing the mechanized version of double digging. With a little help from a backhoe, we will begin the transformation of one terribly compacted dirt-and-gravel parking lot into a lush, forested landscape. Unlike our food-producing veggies, the plant material we will plant in this 24”-deep soil mixture will screen a neighboring church and a busy city intersection (with 16’ to 18’-tall trees) while it simultaneously provides shade, wind protection, beauty, and comfort for my clients.
Although the end results are different, the basic concept of each digging process, its lesson, is the same: Mix organic material thoroughly and deeply into the top two feet of existing soil in order to bring the land
back to life and, ultimately, to regenerate the local watershed for generations to come.