I wonder if you had imagined what pleasure you derived from a carefully made bed following a long working day! Whao, it’s safe to say that it’s just an expressway to a sound sleep. That’s good to know, in the same vein, similar things happen to the plant. When you prepare a suitable bed for your crops, it affects to a large extent their growth and survival. It interests me that last week we discussed extensively the critical factors to consider before choosing appropriate beds for your crops alongside the tools that make farming a much easier task. Feel good to click here to gain access to the lesson, in case you missed out.
For week 7, we are discussing deep soil preparation, also known as double digging. Let me first register that this topic will run for two weeks, the second phase of the study comes next week. First off, do you know that it takes up to 1000 years and even more to build a six-inch farmable soil layer that is needed to grow a crop? If no, now you know. To reiterate from our previous lesson, the key to a productive and healthy garden is the preparation of the growing bed.
Preparing a growth bed with loose soil to a depth of 24 inches will enable the root of crops to penetrate the soil easily, allows for optimum uptake of nutrients, makes air and water move freely in the soil and gives way for easy weeding. When plants are to be transplanted, and the growth medium (soil) is not well prepared, First, the yield of such plants are disturbed and secondly, the roots have difficulties in penetrating the soil for nutrients.
This problem makes the plants produce more carbohydrate and less protein than what is expected. The imbalanced soil also predisposes the crops to pest and disease infestation, and subsequently leads to the usage of synthetic pesticides as enhancers which is a harmful practice for soil health.
In Bio-intensive farming, the essence of deep soil preparation (double digging) is to produce a living sponge cake in the soil to a depth of 24 inches. Moreover, if it is hard to dig up to 24 inches for the first time in your garden or farm, don’t bother because the activities of the microorganisms with plant’s roots and water will over the time cause the soil to become a little deeper each year. Once you are unable to do the first 24 inches double digging down the soil, you may have to continue using surface cultivation (meaning loosening of the upper 2 inches of the soil) for several years until your soil is compacted again depending on your agronomic practices. For further information, the best time to double dig is just before the beginning of the rainy season, if you cannot meet up, it is better to wait till the end of the late rains. Meanwhile, at that point you will not double dig again, you will only have to loosen-up where you intend to double dig and plant cover crops through the dry season to help protect the topsoil from wind erosion.
Like earlier mentioned, 3-5 feet wide and at least 3 feet long dimension should be an appropriate size for a bed to create a minimum miniclimate. Other needed materials will assist in determining how many beds can be prepared each season. However, the best time of the day to double dig is in the morning or evening. This time the temperature is cooler and so, less organic matter is lost in the process. Remember to only dig soils that are evenly moist and not hard ones because it can breakdown the soil structure.
Also, compaction of soil reduces the flow of air (called aeration) and destroys the feeble structure of the soil. Additionally, to test when the soil is too dry for digging, squeeze a sample of the soil in the palm of your hand, if it becomes loosened and wouldn’t hold its shape at all especially for sandy, loamy and clay soil, you should know that the very soil is not appropriate for digging. For clay soil in particular, when a spade cannot penetrate into the soil, at that point it is not appropriate for digging. On the other hand, to test when a soil is too wet, also dig a spade into the soil and if it sticks to the spade, this way, it means that it is not an appropriate time for digging. Overall, it takes time to build a good soil, patience is the key ingredient.
To whet your appetite for next week, we shall be looking at the step-by-step guide to double digging. Thank you!
Meet our Instructor/Author
Abosede Olawumi Benedict is an astute, well-traveled Organic Farm Manager and Trainer with over 15-years of experience in the farming industry.
Her expertise intercuts the following areas: Grow Bio-intensive System, Organic, Sustainable or Regenerative Farming, Healthy Living (Nutrition), Sustainable living, Natural building, Compost making, Holistic Management, Farm Management & Trainer and Organic Integrated Pest Management to mention just a few.
Kindly reach the undersigned for further enquiries
0904 2607 067
1) The Sustainable Vegetable Garden by John Jevons and Carl Cox.
2) How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jevons.