Deep Digging or Top Dressing

Deep Digging with Atlas Trade Spades and Top Dressing with Atlas Trade Forks


When applying organic material to cultivated areas, should you top-dress or dig it in deep?

Over time some advice on growing has changed. Previously, digging organic composts deep into soil was the recommendation. The theory behind this was simple; get the organic material and nutrients down deep into the soil where the roots of the plants are. However, recommendations have changed over time. With greater understanding of the role of invertebrates and micro-organisms in soils and the layering of complex soil ecosystems, the advice is now to top dress, i.e. lay the organic material on the top of the soil or only mix it with the top layer. The theory with this approach is to allow the good organisms (earthworms, insects, bacteria, fungi, etc.) in the soil to break the organic material down and naturally transport the nutrients and organic material down into the soil. It is thought that deep digging disturbs the layers in the soil and unbalances the ecosystems, reducing the health of the soil and the efficiency of the breakdown of the organic material.


So, using an Atlas Trade Garden Fork top dress cultivated areas with organic composts. Resist the urge to dig the organic matter in deep; the complex soil ecosystem of established beds is best left undisturbed. Nutrients added to the top will move their way down into the soil where they will be available to the plant roots. As a top dressing, the organic matter will also act as a mulch and help suppress weeds.


However, if the bed your working on is new and has not been cultivated recently, it is maybe best to dig in the organic matter on the first application. The Atlas Trade Treaded Spades give you the leverage and digging comfort to dig deep, even in compacted or clay soils. Then when the soil has settled down, and the eco-system layers have established, change to top dressing using your Atlas Trade Fork.

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