Double digging at NFI

June 2, 2011

Author: Neighborhood Farm Initiative

Category: General News

Many thanks to super volunteer Neil Z. for the following blog post and photographer friend Ellie for the spectacular images.

The past few weeks, as we prepare the beds for the spring planting, I’ve been introduced to a new technique called “double digging”; I thought other people might also be interested in this. There is a very nice (short) article with a cute animation on Wikipedia.

As explained to me by Liz and Kat, amongst the reasons that we are pursuing the double digging are:

1) In order to help with the drainage in our low-lying fields, we are making beds which are raised quite a bit above the grade and even more above the drainage ditches, by loosening soil and adding compost.

2) By loosening not only the top area but also the very clayey section below, we are substantially increasing the ability of the soil to drain water directly down from the top.

3) By keeping the top layer of soil at the top (after mixing with compost), we are optimizing our soil’s ability to grow good plants, because we are keeping the same biota at the same vertical level. In contrast, if we were to dig the top layer and then use that dirt to fill in a hole in a lower layer, the microbes would not be the best ones for that deeper layer of soil.

4) It is fun!

Over the course of a couple of Saturdays (and possibly more in the future), we worked with shovels and forks and a wheelbarrow, digging the top layer, chopping it up, loosening the deeper heavy-clay layer, and moving compost from the piles at the southeast end of the site.

This past Saturday, we had a large group of new volunteers from the QED group, and it was cool to work with new Volunteer Coordinator Sam on this project.

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