The Dig MethodThe basic premise of the dig method, is well, to dig. The idea is that by breaking up the soil and turning and mixing the soil you are loosening the air pockets and spreading the compost and nutrients throughout the soil structure. Digging your garden is especially important for those with heavy soil that needs to be broken up.
Dig in the fall months on a dry day to maintain soil structure. The best methods of digging are either to single dig or double dig. Before you embark, be aware that these methods are labor intensive and are difficult for even the most fit gardeners. For both methods, start by digging a trench. For single digging, dig the trench 1 shovel depth, and for double digging, dig the trench 2 shovel depths. Dig a row alongside the trench turning the soil into the trench. Continue turning each row into the newly created trench and fill the final row with the soil from the first trench. You can also simply dig down in your garden and turn each shovelful into the hole.
The No-Dig MethodWhen I first read about the no-dig method, I thought - what a bunch of lazy gardeners, coming up with a whole method just to save themselves the work of digging. But the more I read and came to understand the no-dig method, the more I realized the the no-dig method actually makes a lot of sense.
No digging is based on the idea that natural systems actually create passages in the soil for air and water, and organisms such as worms will do the work of bringing the nutrient rich soil on the surface down to the deeper soil. When you dig you actually break up this delicate balance and then compress the soil by walking on it.
To employ the no-dig method, you need to enrich the top of the soil and allow natural processes to bring nutrients down. You can also use this method to build up a raised bed.
What's BestBoth digging and not digging have their own benefits, but ultimately it depends on your soil, the life of your garden, and you own time and energy commitments as to what will work best for you. For brand new gardens, it is often best to dig your bed to pull out any rocks, clumps of clay and simply break up the soil. Once your garden is established, I have found it easy every year to add some compost to the top and simply work it into the top couple inches of soil.
What method do you use in your garden?
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