This is how I clear and dig new ground. It is not the way that most gardeners will begin a new allotment but I find that triple sieve digging clears out pernicious perennial weeds and large stones producing a reasonable finely tilthed soil that can be used immediately with few problems. I think that triple sieve digging produces a soil that ten years of conventional cultivation would produce. I emphasise that this is the way that I do it; it is idiosyncratic but it works for me.
Most of this allotment has been covered by carpets and tarpaulins since February this year. The only plants that can survive under the carpets are hedge bindweed Calystegia sepium (sepium means of the hedge- where I wish it would stay) and mare's tail Epiquestrum arvense (arvense means found on cultivated ground - particularly on my new allotment.)
Also, where there are gaps and spaces that have not been covered, plants like dock can survive.
|Docks and bindweed growing through the|
weed smothering carpet.
At the trackway end of the allotment there was a bed of small rhubarb that had gone to seed.
|Rhubarb along the trackway has gone to|
|Bindweed and mare's tail are growing|
between the rhubarb plants.
|Wood has been used to weigh the carpets|
I was using old wooden planks and pallets to hold down the carpets and this needed to be removed. It was put in a pile further down the allotment. Rather than burn the wood, I was going to bury it in the trenches. Most hugelkultur uses relatively fresh wood but I decided that I would experiment with processed wood. All the wooden planks were rotting in any case.
|Rotten wood found on the allotment.|
Even though I dislike carpets, I have to admit that they do clear the ground fairly well.
|The carpet was folded back.|
The surface bind weed stolons are being hoed and raked
off. The soil will be sieved to get rid of the rhizomes.
|A large dock Rumex obtusifolius (Obtusifolius meaning|
|Long stolons of hedge bindweed.|
Rhubarb has large fleshy roots which can be a little difficult to dig out. However with a little effort this can be achieved quite quickly. I cut the leaves off so that the roots could be reached. I started the trench next to the runner beans and was surprised to find that the soil was particularly stony.
|Stones and halfenders did not make digging out the|
rhubarb roots very easy.
|The fork had to be used to take out the soil.|
|I will add the rhubarb and the dock seed heads to the|
trench when I have dug it out.
|Bindweed drying out in the sunshine.|
As the trench is dug the rhubarb roots come out fairly easily. I am not going to keep this rhubarb because the bindweed is growing through the roots. I don't know what variety this rhubarb is, so I would rather transplant named rhubarb from the old allotment.
|Rhubarb roots are encountered as I dig backwards.|
|Taking the roots out is relatively easy.|
|The roots are removed and the top soil is put on one side.|
The next spit of soil will be removed too. I have used some of the carpet and black plastic to cover the weeds on the next allotment - it is mine too. These will be used to make a base to put the subsoil. I will dig out as much as is practical and leave it on the carpets.
|Beginning to take out the second spit of soil.|
|Old processed wood added.|
|Brushwood cuttings and compost|
|This fills up the trench but I could add a lot more if I wanted.|
|This organic matter will be covered with sieved soil from|
the next part of the trench.
|I put the bread tray onto four tubs to raise it above the|
|Soil from the next part of the trench is sieved over the|
|I sieved quite a bit of subsoil through the sieve to make a|
And so I continue along the trench making sure that all the weed rhizomes are removed and the subsoil is kept separate from the top soil.
|I am still removing mare's tail rhizomes even|
at this depth.
|When the second spit is taken out the|
bottom of the trench is forked over to
another spit deep. This is triple digging.
|Processed wood is added.|
|The wood is covered with mare's tale and bindweed|
rhizomes that were dried out carefully and composted for
|I don't think that they will regenerate but you can never|
|The subsoil is starting to look a little more|
|The subsoil with fewer large stones and|
hopefully no weed rhizomes.
|Sun is getting low in the sky and it is time to go home.|
|Still some more top soil to sieve but that can be done|