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The digging of the vegetable beds in the spring is a must for hobby gardeners with a pronounced sense of order: the upper soil layer is turned and loosened, plant remains and weeds are transported to deeper layers of the earth. What happens to the soil life, however, was ignored for centuries. One liter of soil contains up to ten billion living beings - more than humans live on earth. The soil flora and fauna, called in the soil science Edaphon, consists of a variety of organisms, from the microscopic bacterium via protozoa, algae, ray fungi, mites and insects to the earthworm and mole. Many of the soil organisms are dependent on individual living conditions, which they find only in a certain depth.
When the soil structure is jumbled up by digging, many of these animals die due to lack of oxygen or dryness. Thus, numerous metabolic processes, which are important for plant growth, temporarily come to a standstill, for example the degradation of humus into plant-usable nutrients. Although the soil life is recovering, but until then precious time passes, in which the plants from the organic soil substance can not be optimally supplied with nutrients.
Even the clean impression left by a newly dug up garden floor is deceptive: when turning the soil, weed seeds always appear on the surface, which have survived one or more years in greater soil depths. As they germinate very quickly, freshly reclaimed areas are usually covered by a sparse weed turf within a short time.
Alternatives to digging
If you do not want to dig up your garden floor, cover your harvested vegetable patch already in late summer or autumn with a mulch layer of autumn leaves, half-ripe compost and harvest residues. The mulch protects the soil from strong temperature changes, sludge and prevents excessive weed growth. Alternatively you can sow a green manure. It is mown before seed maturity and then serves as a mulch layer until spring.
Just before sowing, remove the existing mulch layer and compost it. To loosen the soil, you then work the soil with a so-called sow tooth. It is a single-minded cultivator that deeply loosens the soil without turning it over. Pull the sow tooth through the floor in longitudinal and transverse tracks, each about 20 centimeters apart, so that a diamond pattern is created on the surface. You must then remove any rooted fertilizer residues from the ground using a cultivator and remove them as well.
Before sowing or planting, the soil is loosened with the sow tooth or cultivator
After cultivating, the soil is enriched with mature compost. The amount depends on the intended culture: four to six liters for starvation sufferers such as potatoes and cabbages, two to three liters for medium-eaters such as carrots and onions and one to two liters for weak eaters such as peas, beans and herbs. Until the sowing time in about two weeks, the earth can sit down again. Shortly before sowing, the surface is then loosened again with a rake and at the same time the compost is incorporated flat, so that a flat, feinkrümeliges seedbed is formed.
Digging: Sometimes useful
In some cases, even convinced Umgrabegegner reach for the spade: Heavy loam or clay soils, for example, are suitable only for regular digging and consistent composting for the cultivation of vegetables. Such soils are already dug up in the fall, so that the frosty winter crushes the coarse floes and increases the important air entrainment.
If a previously unused garden area is to be converted into a vegetable or ornamental plant bed, there is no way around digging. In the first year after digging, you should first grow potatoes and sow a green manure after harvesting. In this way, the soil is loosened perfectly and the initially strong weed growth effectively suppressed. Potatoes can even displace root weeds such as greed. Nevertheless, you should remove as much as possible when digging all weed roots.