Deep Bed Method

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by Judgement, May 31, 2013.

  1. #1 Judgement, May 31, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2013
    Anyone do deep bed/double dig gardening? Picked up a book on it earlier in the spring and went this route this year, The Self-Sufficient Gardener: A Complete Guide to Growing and Preserving All Your Own Food (Using the New Deep Bed Method to Grow More Food in Less Space) by John Seymore. Was very pleased with the way it looked and teh density of my soil once I was done digging it.. but it took a couple hours to get it all dug out and filled in ;) (they aint bullshitting about labor intensive! I usually use a rototiller but giving this method a go this year.)
    short article on this method I quickly pulled off the web. The article a lil confusing, I'll try to update with some visual aids(which I am having a hell of a time trying to find suitable pics so if you can find some good ones post it up lol.. wish I had my own sequence of pics:
    Deep bed Gardening
    As it sounds, this method involves a deeply dug garden bed. The preparation is more labor intensive but the yields much greater…up to 4 times that of a conventional bed.  Deep bed gardening aka the Chinese method or the French intensive method  has been around for hundreds of years used in various countries by farmers that lived just outside of the city on small expensive land and needed high yielding crops.
    A deep bed is essentially a double dug bed which is exactly what it sounds like. The bed is dug in trenches about the depth of a spade and the soil at the bottom of the trench is then loosened to the depth of a pitch fork- each trench being “dug” twice.  The soil from the first trench is set aside and each trench dug is filled with the soil of the previous trench. The last trench is filled with the soil of the first. Compost, manure, or peet would be added along the way. Suggestions are either to layer it on top of the soil before you begin digging, or layer it into the trenches as you go.
    The size of the bed is determined by what is comfortable for the gardener. The most important rule of deep bed gardening is to never compact your soil which means never ever walk on it. Take this into consideration when planning your bed size.  Make paths if needed or keep your bed small enough that you can comfortably garden from the perimeter.
    Deep bed gardening has been very successful for many years because it allows the roots of the plant to grow down rather than sideways. This frees up space in the garden and your plants can have much closer neighbors. It is recommended that generally plants can be spaced 4 times closer and in triangular or diamond patterns rather than the traditional row. The goal is to space the plants out so when mature the leaves just barely touch their neighbors. This will create an environment that conserves moisture in hot dry climates. There is no consensus on whether to double dig each year or if forking through the soil is sufficient.
    Studies have shown a consistent 4x higher yield than a conventional garden. The US department of agricultural stats claims the average adult eats roughly 320 lbs of vegetables each year. A 100 square foot double dug garden bed can produce between 200 and 400 lbs yearly.
    edit: horrible time finding some explanatory pics but managed to get some crooked and creased scans from a 1970s book containing pics of bobo the clown's farmer brother.. lol


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  2. So to sum up the op in one sentence.

    Till the soil really deep.

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  3. good summation; minus the part about tilling of course. Although the part about soil and deep were spot on!
  4. Perhaps i dont iniw what tillibg.means then? Sounds like tilling though

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  5. With a rototiller I can probably sink the machine about as deep as you end up going with this method but the thing with soils heavy in clay it is almost like mixing cement and you actually often end up compacting your soil instead; whereas with this method months later I can sink my arm down into my shitty soil pretty deep. I don't know if it is because of the way the soil gets broken up or the way the compost gets thoroughly mixed in or the combo but I am very happy with the garden this year(Only been at this loc for a few years now).
    but yeah\\\\ tilling is just plowing the soil with some bladed contraption but I guess you can get away with calling it tilling since the word can be used as a generic term encompassing just about everything having to do with raising crops ;)
  6. Hmmm. At the risk of the semantics game, isnt deep bed meathod still just a better version of tilling?

    Tilling is losening the soil. Tractors are the lazy way and you get what you pay for.

    This deep bed meathod is like a perfectionist tilling practice.

    I want to try it but i dont have property :(

    So i only do cibtainer gardens right now

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  7. With clay soils, dig deep and throw some twigs and sticks in the very bottom of the trench :) It will sink over time of course. This will allow water to drain better, as well as added benefits of fungi down below. They'll eventually sprawl out around your plant roots, helping to protect them. I can get into this more if you'd like, though there is plenty of info in the Organic section here (stickies).
  8. OR, you could burn some wood, create some charcoal (or near it) and throw this in the bottom of the trench. Yea....buddy. Mix some charcoal in with your clay (break big pieces up into dime sized pieces; this may be personal preference, but I go with what works well).
  9. I'm not sure about this deep bed method. Sounds great and all but not sure if it's needed. I think a bed about a foot or two is perfect, and also depends on what you are growing and what kind of ground the bed is sitting on.
    It sounds like the only real benefit is allowing the roots to grow down instead of sideways. 
    I'm just not sold on it, although it would be a good experiment. I would love to see some better pictures.
  10. I got my tomato plants like right on top of each other and they look like fucking fruit trees this year so by this point I am pleased with the results.(my tomatoes always get big but this year it is pretty nuts how well they are doing as well as the rest of my plants. Usually by now with all the rainy weeks and heat waves my soil would have hardened like a brick but today many months later my son while out helping me barefoot accidentally stepped in the bed and sunk in and said "why is the ground so mushy?"
    Sorry about the absence of pics but I couldn't really find anything suitable on the web like I said and never thought to make a thread till some time after. I'll be redoing the beds next spring so if I remember that far down the road I'll try to get someone over here so I can take a some pics of the process as it is done. Got some great compost cooking so definitely going have to re-dig the bed (will be much easier this time..)
    By the way I have been taking part in gardening for well over 30 years (that I can remember) and I am also skilled in landscape construction so it isn't like my gardens over the years weren't successful; I just got that old ass book one day and decided to give it a go and I am happy with the results.
    Sorry for under estimating your gardening experience. I didn't mean to come off that way.....
    If you end up making yourself a deep bed I would like to see some pictures of it. Could be interesting on how things turn out. 
  12. im personally a bit lazy to do this for very big plots but i will say that on plots i have done it on the soil stays loose much longer (by 2 years or so, i think on the third it ceases to make a huge difference but i definately would recommend soil building plantings those three years so that you do not have to disturb the osil every three years to keep loose soil)
    honestly if youre going to work your ass off on a plot this would be a good way to do it, though i would also add some twigs/sticks/logs to act as a natural sponge beneath the soil and make a hugelkultur out of it, then youre that much better off and while your at it, orient the bed for hydrological efficiency (such as on contour or along a keyline swale)
  13. Good answer! I love your soil idea!!
    If I were making a deep bed I would use some sticks, small logs and loose organic material to fill some of the space and also create a compost material for the roots to reach for at the bottom of the bed,
  14. yeah its amazing how much of a difference a bit of buried wood can make in the garden, i havent been to cheyenne mroe than once or twice this whole summer, only once after planting some starts and it isnt straight covered in green but i got wheat, corn, sunflowers, rhubarb, peas some spinach that went to seed unused some summer squash and plenty of other crops that have survived without any supplemental water other than the few (and i mean few considering how much area i have planted and how little time ive had) places ive been able to water when ive been there
    all in a place with sandy quick draining soil that gets about 10-12in of annual average rainfall (cheyenne area get 11-14 average but i looked at some rain maps a couple years back and this property is inside a ten mile radius that gets about 2-3in less water every year) and without a lot of mulch really, just a bit here and there
    getting back on topic, in this same place i have found that where i have double dug my non-hugelkultur beds they seem to stay moist longer than my single dug or no-dig beds and actually maintain moisture under the mulch (ive found that round straw like mulches are best when there is as little rainfall as there is there as they dont suck up as much water as wood chips do) but even under woodchips the double-dug beds manage to stay moist a bit longer than the others
  15. #15 Judgement, Jul 25, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2013
    I got hit by a hurricane two years in a row, have a yard surrounded by huge oak trees that got raped by the storms, and have a chiminea in the back so been no shortage of free amendments lol 
    edit: dun worry Mattbo4 I took no offense, just thought I would mention that gardening and farming is a long lived tradition for me and my family. Gardening and fishing.. we do love our free food (and free fertilizer!)

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