The San Francisco Chronicle’s garden advice columnist Pam Pierce wades into the murky debate over mulching, double-digging, and amending the soil. It’s a tricky business, but she sums it up neatly. Read the whole thing here. This, I think, is the most compelling argument against this particular practice:
A second reason is the
bathtub effect. This refers to what often happened in the past, when
gardeners followed advice to excavate a hole at least 2 feet deep, then
heavily amend the soil they put back in, under and around the
transplant’s root-ball. Often the planting hole, because it was filled
with soil so different from that surrounding it, did not drain well. It
filled up like a bathtub with a clogged drain and the plant’s roots,
lacking air, drowned.
And so, once again, we are left to sift through this hodgepodge of ideas about dirt. (I’m not calling Pam’s column a hodgepodge; she does a great job of making sense of the larger confusion about this issue.) When we decide to double dig or not to double dig, are we following expert advice? Or proven techniques backed by research? Or feel-good tips based mostly in instinct? How do we know the difference? Does it matter?
Here’s what I wonder: how is gardening advice different from cooking advice? If you’re trying to make dinner, you have a wide variety of recipes you could follow, and perhaps a few hard-and-fast rules, mostly having to do with food safety and basic chemistry, but is the overall approach less dogmatic? Geared more toward suggestions, inspiration, taste, and what ingredients are available?
Or is it the opposite? Are food people even more dogmatic and rule-driven? Are they for ever discarding the conventional wisdom about, say, the proper technique for boiling an egg or making the perfect tomato sauce, and replacing it with the latest and greatest advice?
Does anyone know anything? Just wondering.