Did you know that fine carrot roots grow down almost 8 feet into the soil? Beets set out a very dense system of rootlets that go down 10 feet into the soil. (Perhaps this is why beet kvass is so health-giving?) Sometimes even lettuce tries to reach down 4 feet.
This is what I finally learned after reading John Jeavons’ How to Grow More Vegetables for the fifth time in 20 years. Every time I’ve picked up this book in the past, I’ve skimmed it and have blanched at the idea of double-digging even a small garden bed. I have actively searched out data on the lasagne-type layering methods advocated by others, and I’ve done everything possible to stall this double-digging stuff.
Also this week I have been reflecting on my vegetable-growing strengths and weaknesses. Aside from David’s success with potatoes, we haven’t been successful growing beets, carrots and other root crops.
Many other crops we grow seem stunted. They grow well for awhile and then suffer when they’re ready to fruit (tomatoes, I’m calling you out here).
So… the particles in my mind finally collided this morning. Perhaps our beets don’t taste sweet enough because they’re fighting too hard to work through the heavy clay soil. Maybe if I buck up and double-dig, the carrots and beets will be happier and sweeter?
Okay! I will try!
We have done so much to ammend our soil over the last seven years. We can see our hard work when we dig a hole and see the layers of composting ammendments, decaying crop remnants and green mulch. But there’s a clear dividing line about 18 inches down, and I need to bring more oxygen and compost down there so that the worms go deeper.
This work is too delicate for David to do with his tractor. He’s more patient and even-handed than I am, but he hates doing repetitive, drudge work of any kind so I will be double-digging the whole side yard.
But I will do this for sweet carrots, rich beets, and for our health (yours and ours).
You know that 3′ by 10′ garden mound I showed you? I moved that late this afternoon and then spent another 90 minutes beginning a proper double-dig of the whole section. I’ll work on it more tomorrow and the next day, in celebration of Brigid’s Day/Candlemas/Imbolc. I will set my intentions for a hearty, fertile foundation for the Curious Farm and for sweet, happy roots of all kinds.
And may I grow strong from this double-digging! You just might not hear from me again until May.