Gardening Methods: Double-Dug, Rototilled, Rows or Deep Mulch Beds

Discussion of which gardening methods are best, including Biodynamic French Intensive double-dug versus rototilled beds, conventional straight rows or deep mulch, yields, space, fertilization, and long-term effects.

| July/August 1986

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    There is little doubt in my mind that the hand-worked, biodynamic/French intensive method leads to the most rapid improvement in soil condition and the most profound changes over time. It can literally transform the nature of a soil.

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Reprinted from MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 92. 

Double-dug or rototilled bed? Straight rows or deep mulch? Which of these gardening methods is best?

An Experiment With Gardening Methods

Two summers ago, in 1984, our Eco-Village gardeners conducted an intriguing experiment: They grew the same vegetables (and identical numbers of each) using four different methods. The techniques they used in four minigardens were these: 

BFI: the hand-worked, biodynamic/French intensive technique, in which the soil is first loosened to a depth of two feet with a spade and fork and then shaped into a four-foot-wide raised bed.  

RB: the rototilled, raised-bed method, in which the entire area is rototilled and the loosened pathway soil spaded and raked up onto a four-foot-wide raised bed (then treated like the standard hand-dug biodynamic/French intensive garden).  

CR: a conventional row design, in which the entire plot is rototilled, then planted in single rows with pathways in between.  

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