Stop digging! It’s bad for your soil – and you | James Wong

The most back-breaking job in the garden is not necessary – because worms will aerate your beds

As the leaves turn, traditional horticultural advice is to get out and dig over your beds. Based on the belief that this aerates the soil, reduces weeds and boosts fertility, for generations of gardeners this has been an unquestioned annual tradition. But when tested scientifically, this backbreaking job not only has often failed to deliver such benefits, but may in some cases have the exact opposite effect. So here’s my advice for boosting your soil: ditch the toil this autumn.

Digging, and in particular the Victorian practice of “double digging”, is without doubt one of the most time-consuming and physically demanding tasks in horticulture. Though on very heavily compacted soils (such as those that have been trodden on when wet) it can improve the crumb-like structure and introduce beneficial air pockets, studies have shown that in most cases this practice does more harm than good.


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