Pacific Northwest

April, 2011
Regional Report

Books

The Compleat Squash
The Compleat Squash, by Amy Goldman (Artisan Press, 2004; $40), is a guide to the entire Cucurbita genus. The book contains the history of squash, descriptions of the various families, growing and harvesting tips, and best of all, recipes! I wouldn't call this a recipe book but rather a tribute to a noble plant that has served humanity for thousands of years. The incredible color photographs by Victor Schrager are an invitation to a love affair with the common, and uncommon, squash. This beautiful book would make an ideal gift for any gardener.

Clever Gardening Technique

Double-Digging
Frequent cultivation, and the effects of time, weather, and foot traffic can lead to compaction of garden soils and a decline in productivity. Double digging is a restorative process that not only improves drainage and aeration, but also rotates the soil particles, mineral nutrients, and trace elements buried deep beneath the surface. Plus, it offers an opportunity to incorporate organic matter and other soil amendments into the planting bed.

The process of double digging can be a rather strenuous ordeal, but it needs to be done only occasionally, and the benefits can last for years. To get started on a bed you've selected, dig a trench that measures 10 to 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide along the length of one end of the bed. Place the soil from the trench into a wheelbarrow or on a tarp for later use. The next step is to add amendments such as compost, manure or lime to the trench, depending upon what you plan to plant in the bed. Then, dig a second trench parallel to the first one, placing the soil dug from the second trench into the first trench and mixing it with the amendments at the bottom of the first trench as you go. Repeat the process, using the soil dug from one trench to fill in the previous trench until you reach the end of the bed and are left with one open trench and the original pile or wheelbarrow full of soil. Finish the process by transferring the soil into the remaining trench, and mixing it in with the amendments.

Double digging doesn't have to be a back-breaking job. Start with a small area -- one you can finish in 30 to 40 minutes -- and gradually work your way through a large garden over the course of several days. Use a long-handled spade that allows for greater leverage and less bending. Over time, you will see the positive effects your double digging has on your garden's productivity and you'll look at the process as being a labor of love.

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