The Dreaded Double Dig

9 Apr
Matt in his Hat

My husband is a rock star, or rather, a clay star.

We’ve been running a bit late on all our garden preparations this year. Most pressing at this point is that we need to dig out the new garden beds. Our beautiful little seedlings need to be planted in the next few weeks. In fact, our schedule means that we won’t get several of our cool season/long growing season plants in this spring (chard and parsnip for example). Last weekend Bolt rid the plots of all the sod, but this weekend marked the beginning of the real work. The dreaded double dig!

Double digging is a technique we first learned about in John Jeavon’s book “How to Grow More Vegetables.” It is a rather back-breaking ordeal in our clay-based soil here in DC, whereby the digger integrates compost (we used local Leaf Gro, since our own compost is not ready yet) two spade lengths down into the soil. According to the NYTimes, those across the pond call it ‘bastard trenching.‘  I don’t think that either of us are convinced that it is a winning strategy for production year after year, but it is critical for breaking up the clay to get our garden started.

So, I mentioned that Bolt is a total trooper, right? I am out of commission in the garden this spring and can’t help at all with this crazy work. In part, it is because we are still awaiting the results of our soil test. We had to send the soil sample out to the University of Massachusetts soil lab for analysis because it was critical for us, with me pregnant and Bug on the way, to understand the heavy metal composition of our soil – not every soil test will look for these.  No lead poisoning for us please.

The already dug bed is to the left, the bed to be dug in on the right.  Also, look at our garlic grow!

The already dug bed is to the left, the bed to be dug in on the right. Also, look at our garlic grow!

According to folks we talked to at the Rooting DC Conference this year, DC will soon have its very own soil testing lab to go with its increasingly active cooperative extension program, but we couldn’t wait for it to open for business.

In any case, after two days of slinging clay, Bolt is about half way done with the double dig. He should be very proud of his hard work.  The beds look beautifully raised and we’re well on our way to planting.

ECP update: Apparently the ECP has a little brother.  We’re calling this one the ECS, or the enigmatic concrete strip. This one, which runs through yet another one of our garden beds.  Sigh. Did I also mention that we have a strange crop circle forming in the front yard? Can’t wait to find out what’s underneath that one.


One Response to “The Dreaded Double Dig”


  1. What’s in our Dirt | Pandabolt Farms - April 16, 2013

    […] for me and the baby.  Also, other than the leaf compost that Bolt has been adding in the double dig, we don’t need to add much to the soil this year to get a good crop going.  This is really a […]

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