I gather no-dig gardens can be established almost anywhere, from over a concrete surface to over a perennial weed infested garden.

What are the basic principles on how they work and is there any evidence that double digging is better where possible?

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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Stout - though I will note that her own book mentions "actually" having the garden tilled or plowed every few years, if memory serves. Or it might be "if the soil is heavy clay" anyway.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 4 '17 at 2:20
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    @Ecnerwal, I know the answer. Just wanted a voted answer :) Jan 4 '17 at 3:22
  • @GrahamChiu youtube.com/watch?v=_C-V9hjPeCU Jan 7 '17 at 7:12
  • @Ecnerwal I just finished reading her book. She doesn't mention tilling her gardens at all, even if the soil were heavy clay which she didn't have. And generally, she preferred to speak from her own experience. Jan 20 '17 at 21:10

Tillage is intrusive and destructive to the soil ecosystem. Tillage destroys aggregates. Tillage stimulates opportunist bacteria to consume the aggregates and the biotic glues in the soil.

Aggregates and biotic glues are really important: 1) house for bacteria,2) improve water infiltration and water holding capacity,3) increase the holding of nutrients. Tillage cuts the fungi network, and stimulates weed production.

Mechanical tiller are killer...remember the soil is alive...treat like your favorite pet...you would not run over your favorite pet with a disk or tillage machine...

  • I really like this answer.
    – That Idiot
    Jan 9 '17 at 18:16
  • In addition to the answer tilling can in some cases depending on your soil content, tilling frequency and other factors also create a hard pan which can compact the soil. I have also read that the tilling can bring up more weed seeds as well as move organisms into different soil strata that they are not acclimated to. But that is from text. I normally do the Lasagna Gardening. In newer plots I may occasionally double dig with a Shovel and Garden Fork just to get plants in the ground. Then do the layering to build up the soil. My Soil is sandy with little or no clay though. Jan 13 '17 at 14:25

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