Double digging is deeply unfashionable now – the modern trend is to leave the soil alone and just apply a thin mulch of compost. That wasn’t the case when I started vegetable growing here 12 years ago, when I well remember losing a stone in weight as I nearly killed myself double digging our vegetable patch in our first autumn.
The “let it be” policy is alluring to the Slow Gardener and it works well in established gardens where the soil is constantly being worked. But soil which is heavy or compacted or full of roots needs to be double-dug. This old-fashioned advice is given by Val Bourne in her new book in the “Ten Minute Gardener” series on vegetable growing. It’s a lovely little book which, although paper-back sized, has a hard washable cover, which makes it perfect for taking out into the garden and reading over a cup of tea in the potting shed.
But double digging isn’t a ten minute job and I was bemused to see that Val Bourne recommends doing it in early January when, she says, “most gardeners are normally straining at the leash to get outside and take some exercise”. In these parts, the ground in January is either frozen rock solid or water-logged. Slow Gardeners don’t venture out in those conditions, especially not to double dig. The best advice I could give to a gardener in January is to put another log on the fire, put your feet up and enjoy reading the seed catalogues or, for that matter “The Ten Minute Gardener”.