I did order some garlic and shallots (I didn't think that I had) so I have quite a few of those to put in. Ed gave me quite a few and I bought some because I thought that I had not ordered any. The ones that I have left over will be planted on the new allotment. As most of the old allotment is covered in tares and grazing rye green manure, I don't really have the room to put the garlic in so I have potted them up in some of the old potting compost. The elephant garlic that Mick gave me together with the large ones I got from Ed are making some good root growth but not produced any tops as yet. Some of the small garlic have produced both tops and roots. The potted garlic will be planted out on the old allotment but I am not sure when. I will put them outside preferably in the cold frame until there is some space to put them in.
The new allotment has quite a few plants in pots ready to be planted. There are about ten small bay trees, eight asparagus plants; a rhubarb plant; a vine that Ed gave me; two apple trees that were really cheap at the garden center; and several herbs. I will plant these over the winter putting some mychorrhizal fungi in the planting holes each time one is dug. There is room now but I am not sure where to plant things at the moment and it would irritate me no end if I planted one of the perennials only for it to have to be moved later in the year. I will probably use the asparagus to divide two of the beds and I could use the bay trees to do the same.
I might sow some of the giant cabbage, leeks and mammoth onions. I doubt that I will get really big ones but I would like to try. The sweet peas should have been sown during October and it is a bit late to start planting now. I will leave the sweet peas until the early spring now. They will flower a little later but I am happy with that.
The new summer fruiting raspberry canes have arrived too and I have put these in a large pot and covered the roots with the old potting compost to keep them damp until I have the time to plant. The autumn fruiting raspberries will be taken out and put onto the new allotment. They do not grow too big - about one and a half metres - so will not need any supports constructed. I will put these at the north end of the allotment along the pathway.
The summer fruiting raspberries will be planted where the autumn fruiting ones have been taken out of the old allotment. There is some suggestion that this is not a good strategy and new plants will not do very well. This seems to be a similar thing to rose sickness. I think that I will replace the soil with new from another area of the allotment and use mychorrhizal fungi to help to ameliorate the sickness. I will also use some sequestrene in order to add some micro-nutrients.
Digging over the new allotment is coming along quite well. I am bastard trenching the whole allotment sieving the soil through my trusty bread tray while I am doing it.
There are three different types of digging. Single digging, double digging and bastard digging. Single digging is more than adequate in most situations but sometimes a more serious technique needs to be used.
- Single digging is where the soil is turned over usually with a spade to one spit deep incorporating well rotted organic matter. Annual weeds and green manure can be turned in as well. When done well the surface weeds can be cut off with the spade and put at the bottom of the trench.
- Double digging is where the top soil is taken out and a trench one spit deep is made. The bottom of the trench is forked over, with added organic matter, one spit deep but the soil is not taken out. I usually add skimmed off annual weed turfs to the bottom of the trench. This is why I call it skim digging. If the ground adjacent to the trench has been skimmed then the ground is clear when you are digging. A wider area of ground can be skimmed and put into the trench so that the surface weeds do not need to be cut off with the spade and get in the way when you are trying to fork the bottom of the trench. Perennial weeds would probably be able to grow at this depth so it is best to remove them.
- Bastard trenching is a bastard to do. Now you can do this by continuous trenching, working, backwards, but I find that this creates a vast hole and is quite hard to control. So I remove the top soil of the trench to a depth of one spit, sieving it and adding well rotted organic matter. That goes on the dug side of the trench. Next I remove one spit of subsoil and put that on the undug side of the trench on ground that has been skimmed of weeds. The bottom of the trench is forked over to one spit depth but the soil is not removed. This will mean that the soil is dug three spits deep. I then search around for any organic matter I can lay my hands on. Rotting wood, shreddings, hedge trimmings, perennial weeds (except for bindweed and horse tail), prunings, leaves, grass mowings, in fact anything that was once living can go at the bottom of the trench. Today I was using perennial weeds from the track way covered with shredded hedge clippings. The subsoil is sieved back into the trench with well rotted organic matter being added at the same time. The top soil is then replaced and, just to make sure, this is sieved back into the trench too.
You don't have to triple dig. For many people single digging is too much and they can garden just as well using mulches and the minimum of forking over. Triple digging is not necessary for most allotments and gardens but I have several reasons why I am doing this now.
- I like digging holes. One of the reasons why I like gardening is for the exercise and fresh air that it gives me.
- I am triple digging a new allotment and this will give me a good idea of the top soil and the subsoil structure and texture. Luckily, at the moment there is no indication of hard pan or consolidated soil except where the pathways went.
- The new allotment has a lot of organic debris that can be buried such as old compost heaps that are more weeds than compost; overgrown hedge branches that need to be cut back, rotting wood, perennial weeds, tree branches and trunks. All these can and are being put at the bottom of a bastard trench.
- I am also putting hedge and tree shreddings into the trench. I have a large pile of shreddings and it is steaming away during these cold months. This is an indication that it is producing heat from micro organisms breaking down the organic matter into plant nutrients. Putting a good layer of shreddings at the bottom of the trench will produce heat, albeit not as well as when it is heaped on the topsoil, and this will keep the soil warm for planting next spring. Or that's the theory anyway.
- I will have a large sponge of organic matter that will regulate the drainage over the allotment allowing water to run away when in excess but retaining water during drought times.
- The allotment is infested with both Calystegia sepium (bind weed) and Equisetum arvense mares tail and triple digging will help to remove them at least from the top 60 cm of soil. This is another reason for sieving the soil.
I still have a lot to do and triple digging is not a speedy way to clear a weed infested allotment, however it is a fairly effective method of removing pernicious weeds. I am not foolish enough to expect the soil to be clear of all the bind weed and mare's tail but I will certainly have given it a bang on the head. I am an advocate of slow gardening and would rather have a good well mixed homogeneous top soil that has taken some time to produce than a quick fix heterogeneous top soil with layers that are more or less fertile.
Digging the allotment in this way will take me most of the winter and possibly beyond, however there is no point in complaining. I might as well just get on with it. It will be finished when it is finished.