I hope I'm not giving the impression that I think it's a waste of time. I simply choose not to.
It does surprise me that none of the agri / horti colleges , nor the RHS garden sites across the country, have set up trials to evaluate the efficacy of one method compared with the other.
I'd never TELL anyone how to work their plot in the same way I'd never allow anyone to TELL me how to work mine.
One of the nice things about us gardeners is we're always happy togive, listen to, and sometimes ignore , advice.
Hostafan, You were not giving the impression it is a waste of time you sound like a gardener to me all I ever wish to do is tell inexperienced gardeners why some things often have to be done. Getting a new garden up to scratch takes years not days as I found with my garden, I was double digging parts for nearly three years letting the frost do some of the work and worms do the rest luckily having a good supply of manure from my Sons horses, not every one has that. It is appalling that builders remove all the top soil from a site and sell keeping just enough to lay down six inches on compacted ground and roll out turf on it, the owners have no chance, we get questions on here how can we save such lawns, I try to be kind but truthful as well it hurts. Gardeners are a law unto themselves the only real freedom we have unless you are bitten by the fashion bug and go into the latest make over nonsense those programmes have a lot to answer for. Most newcomers to gardening did not have the Dads teaching them from an early age telling them it was play and by the questions we get have a lot to learn from us old hands who did come up with a spade instead of a teddy, that is where I aim Hostafan not at gardeners like you.
Perhaps Jim could do a little trial on Beechgrove, Hosta. Why don't you contact them! I think he might get Mr B to do it though....
Tee hee, Panseyface, I can imagine the forced marches . We were all excited last week because we got to go into the newly built horticultural building/classrooms....only to discover it has a white floor (!) and is more like a school classroom than a place where you can take cuttings, etc. We were doing our pest IDs, opened the plastic bag and poof! Whitefly escaping everywhere
I think I would go for double digging (once, maybe) and it was compacted, but I much prefer the idea of leaving the soil be, putting manure on top for the worms to take down and then just giving it a bit of a fork in the spring; mind you, the soil right at the back of my garden is hard clay, when I am digging to plant/get rid of things, I get great big lumps coming up. I wish I knew how to use a kiln.....
If you Google Charles Dowding you will find trials over many years comparing a dug bed with a no dig bed. The latter is at least as productive if not better. He gardens on heavy clay as do I. I get straight carrots, parsnips and salsify although my root parsley was wonky. One parsnip was 18" long so not digging seemed to not harm it. My first parsnips were harvested in early July, and were carrot sized.
FWIW I double dig, or at least bastard trench a plot when getting it into cultivation for the first time. This breaks up any hard pan and also gets rid of stones, rubble and perennial weeds and allows incorporation of organic matter deep down straight away.
In subsequent years I only dig when essential because of neglect (!) or to get more muck in for spuds or squashes. Otherwise I spread compost on the top and let the worms do the work. None on the root bed of course.
Yes I think Dowding mentions that the first year on hard clay is not so good but it soons improves, so presumably an initial dig helps speed things up. Good point about removing stones, I dug the bottom of my garden, but I had to locate disused septic tanks, and fill them with the huge flints from the soil. I think Dowding states that digging is not needed for tatties and squash, just apply compost in winter.
It'd be interesting to see controlled trials comparing dig and no dig with a well defined pan.