Sunday, 26 August 2012

Why gardeners dig 3: to break up compaction


To break up compaction
  • On a building site all sorts of dreadful things happen when heavy vehicles work on wet soil.
  • When a gardener repeatedly rotavates, he creates a hard ‘pan’ of soil just below the depth of cultivation.
  • When a farmer ploughs to the same depth every year, he creates a plough pan.
  • When gardeners walk on a loose surface after heavy rain, they ruin soil structure. Worse, if they work the wet soil.
  • When children repeatedly cycle on a muddy path, they damage the soil.

This soil is compacted. It has been trampled
 on when wet by my neighbour's rheas.
It has no structure.
All the above are examples of compaction. It’s the condition when soil mineral particles are squashed together. All these are circumstances where digging may be justified: even double digging, if you want all the prizes in the vegetable show. Even the ‘nodiggardener’ might dig, just once and never again.

What do no-diggers say about all this?
  • They think wryly that one cultivation is needed to correct the harm done by another.
  • They point out that the way they garden does not create compaction.
  • They note that most gardeners default position is that a new garden needs digging. It usually doesn’t.

Compaction wrongly diagnosed

Where there is a firm, settled, cohesive surface amongst established plantings in a garden with a no dig policy, this is usually NOT compaction. I discuss this in my blog Reasons not to dig: 2


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