Double digging vs Rototilling and intensive planting - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 9 Old 06-08-2009, 02:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I just got my community garden plot today and my gardening plans have totally changed and now I am full of questions again.

I wanted to do intensive planting in the hexagonal patterns. I went to a workshop and learned that amending the soil with organic matter is a must and a way to do this is by "double digging".

I signed my contract for the garden today and saw that there are rototillers available for use as well as other tools. The organizer also mentioned that the whole area is tilled by a tractor in October of every year.

Questions

Is there any benifit to double digging over rototilling in soil amendments?

How much organic matter do I need to add to plant intensively?

If the garden is tilled in the fall anyway is there any point in double digging? Won't the tilling just negate all the work?

Thanks
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#2 of 9 Old 06-08-2009, 02:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by apple_juice View Post
Is there any benefit to double digging over rototilling in soil amendments?

How much organic matter do I need to add to plant intensively?

If the garden is tilled in the fall anyway is there any point in double digging? Won't the tilling just negate all the work?
Double digging is more exercise/labor intensive, and not as harsh to worms and such in the ground. Rototilling is easier and much quicker.

Just add as much compost as you can stand. Stop when you can't stand to see compost anymore.

Only if you really want to. Or you have lots more weeds than you can handle. Tilling can help pull them up to die and make it easier to rake/slough it off.

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#3 of 9 Old 06-08-2009, 01:11 PM
 
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It's actually too bad that the area is tilled. All that is doing is destroying soil life, earthworms, bacteria, fungi, etc. and creating a layer of hardpan at the depth of the tiller tines that roots, nutrients, etc. can't get through.

Even double-digging is very harsh on soil microbiota. You're disrupting the layers and turning stuff over for no real good reason.

If it were me, esp. if I could be assured of getting the same plot next season, I'd do some sheet mulching -- put down layers of newspaper or cardboard, compost, straw, etc. and put soil/finished compost on top to plant the plants in. Or just plant and mulch heavily with finished compost. Let the worms and soil microbiota do the work they're supposed to do -- nature does a much better job than humans do of enriching the soil without all the work work work (and counter-productive work at that!)

Google sheet mulch, or lasagne gardening for more info.

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#4 of 9 Old 06-08-2009, 01:31 PM
 
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It can also depend on your size of garden.
I.e. double digging or lasagna gardening a 10'x20' area is probably slightly easier than 1200sf or 500 acres.
We do have to wait until our soil semi-dries out and the worms are deeper than they usually are so we're not throwing mud chunks or getting many worms, but we also have 3 kids underfoot. We've done the removing weeds with a trowel/hand and dumping compost on shovel by shovelful before, and only been able to finally plant a month after our last frost date. Which, in a 3 month (maybe 4 if we're lucky) growing season, sucks.

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#5 of 9 Old 06-08-2009, 01:38 PM
 
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Another drawback of tilling over other digging methods is that tilling can end up compacting the subsoil soil just below the depth of the blades. Over time this can become a hardpan layer. This is especially so with clay soil. If you have any problems with drainage this will make it worse. It will also block root growth down into the mineral rich sub soils. Hand digging whether it's double digging, trenching or whatever has less risk of making that hardpan layer and of course no till methods such as lasagna, sheet mulching and permanent beds don't compact the subsoil at all.

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#6 of 9 Old 06-08-2009, 03:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If we don't get posted I will have first grabs at that plot for next year. It is mine for as long as I want to pay for it.

I can't get out of the fall tilling as they do it with a farm tractor and till the whole area.

I did a lot of reading last night about the blades creating a hard pan etc. but don't want to do the digging if they are just going to till it anyway.

That being said, if I don't till in the soil amendments and I don't double dig do I just singly dig it in?

My amendment plan is to get some rotted manure and spead 2 to 3 inches and then rake alfalfa pellets into the top of the soil and after planting mulch it if I can afford to get some mulch as my lawn clipings are full of pine needles and I heard that pine needles in the mulch is a no no.

Thanks for all the replies ladies. I amdisappointed about the tilling but am so glad that thye do not allow chemical insecticides or herbicides.
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#7 of 9 Old 06-09-2009, 05:11 PM
 
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You can top-dress or side-dress with the amendments, too. I usually just layer compost over top and then dig it in when I plant. My dad double-digs some of my beds so eventually it all gets worked in by him and the worms. Then I mulch.

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#8 of 9 Old 06-09-2009, 09:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by apple_juice View Post
That being said, if I don't till in the soil amendments and I don't double dig do I just singly dig it in?
Spread it out and let the worms and birds do the digging for you. I started a garden with desert dirt that had never been cultivated - alkaline clay with almost no organic matter - I spread a 4-inch layer of compost and then a thick layer of shredded tree branches. Pulled that aside, dug a small hole and planted whatever. We're harvesting 5-10 pounds of okra, peppers, squash and eggplant every other day, chopping back the herbs with a machete, and trying to figure out how to harvest tomatoes out of the tangle of vines. I still can't get through the dirt without using a pickaxe, but the plants are doing fine.

Quote:
My amendment plan is to get some rotted manure and spead 2 to 3 inches and then rake alfalfa pellets into the top of the soil and after planting mulch it if I can afford to get some mulch as my lawn clipings are full of pine needles and I heard that pine needles in the mulch is a no no.
Pine needles are NOT a no-no, it's an old wives tale. They make EXCELLENT mulch for the top because they don't blow around and are still letting air to the soil. Just layer on whatever you can get for free

The critical part of a garden is reliable watering - more vegetables are killed by over and under-watering (or a mix of flood and drought) than by anything else.

Next year, after the tilling, spread some more organic material around and let it go.

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#9 of 9 Old 06-09-2009, 09:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Lazy Gardens View Post
Pine needles are NOT a no-no, it's an old wives tale. They make EXCELLENT mulch for the top because they don't blow around and are still letting air to the soil. Just layer on whatever you can get for free
It was my impression that pine needles are acidic and will add acidity to your soil as they decompose. Which is why I have them mulching my blueberries, some raspberries, blackberries, and why wild huckleberries do fabulous in the local forests...

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