Allotment: Double Digging

We worked really hard on the allotment at the weekend in order to get a bed ready for all our soft fruits. Things like raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, etc. all take a year or two to settle and produce decent fruit – so the sooner we get them in the sooner we will be enjoying plenty of vitamins! Because we are a bit late in the growing season we have also planted some potatoes in grow bags so that we will have something to harvest later in the year. The plot does look a bit messy at the moment but give me another year and it will look amazing – fencing, a shed, proper pathways, edging for the beds, etc. etc.

The only problem we have with our plot is that the soil is clay! Clay is great as it contains lots of nutrients but it locks in a lot of water and can be too dense/heavy for certain plants (plus it is really heavy and hard work!). Root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips, etc. that all have deep rooting systems require something a bit lighter.

However, there is a way to help make clay soil more suitable – Double Digging.

Image sourced from HERE

The diagram above illustrates how to ‘double dig’ but some basic instructions are:

  1. Section off the area of your bed
  2. Start at one end, remove a strip of the turf and place to one side.
  3. Remove a spades depth of the earth which you have just exposed and place the earth to one side
  4. Using a fork or soil turner loosen up the bottom layer of earth
  5. Then start on your second strip. Remove the turf and place upside down on the earth you have just forked over
  6. Fork over the upside down turf just to loosen it up a bit
  7. Then remove a spades depth of earth and place on top of the upside down turf
  8. Keep repeating the process until you have covered the entire area of your bed. You should have a gap at the end which you can place the turf and earth that you removed from the first strip
  9. You are done – have a cuppa!

This technique does take longer than just digging over the surface but the advantage is that you aerate the soil and once the turf under the soil has rotted it will add some nutrients. You can even add extra manure and things like grit and natural waste during the digging process to help with soils types such as Clay.

So, hard work but it will be worth it in the future when we have fantastic soil that we can grow anything in! Just another 3 beds to go….

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