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Double Digging a Garden: Is It Worth the Trouble?

Starting a new garden is a lot of work, but a wonderful experience filled with endless possibilities. There is nothing quite like walking out into your yard, basking in the allure of a garden filled with beautiful plants, as you breathe in the calming, fresh smells of nature. But before you relish in the splendor of your new garden, you must begin the daunting task of preparing the soil.

garden shovels

Many gardeners will start preparing the soil for planting by performing a common, labor-intensive task called double-digging. Double-digging is a technique that is said to help increase soil drainage and aeration by loosening the two layers of soil, the topsoil and subsoil; basically, you dig up the topsoil—typically a foot deep—creating a trench; you set that soil aside, and loosen up the subsoil beneath—also roughly a foot deep, while adding in organic matter. You then amend the topsoil with organic matter and put it back on top of the subsoil. This time-consuming task is usually preformed where the ground hasn’t previously been cultivated.

There are many gardeners who will encourage the task of double-digging; however, there are many others who feel that the negative effects of double-digging far outweigh any possible positive ones. Here at Horticulture, we take the latter stance that you should not double-dig your soil because it can ruin the structure and microscopic life of the soil—such as beneficial earthworms, fungi, bacteria, insects, etc. Double-digging requires a tremendous amount of energy that can be better used elsewhere in your garden!

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