Thursday, 5 September 2013

Starting to clear and triple dig a new allotment.(2)

I think that you have to be reasonable about how much work that you can do in the allotment particularly when the weather is not ideal.  The temperature yesterday was getting towards 28 degrees celsius, the ground was drying out and becoming very hard which meant that digging was very slow.  Add in the stony, weed rhizome infested soil  and I was going as fast as a sloth with a hangover.
A before and after...

I left the trench sieved and raked level but I knew that I had a lot more top soil to put here.  The fox had walked across this ground leaving a trail of footprints.  The carpet along the trackway is to catch the top soil that is inevitably going to overflow the trench.  I will put this overflow back onto the allotment when I have the room to do it but for the moment I will have to leave it overflowing.

The temperature was not too bad so I decided to start to sieve the top soil into the wheelbarrow and then put it on top of yesterday's soil.
Although the pile of unsieved top soil does
not look too big, it took me a long time to sieve
There was a lot of weed rhizomes and stones in the top soil that needed to be removed carefully.  I was taking the stone down to the bottom of the allotment where I am making a path.  I see no reason for making a path over top soil, so I dig out the top soil and put it on growing areas and fill the hole with stone that I have sieved out from elsewhere.  When the holes are full of stones, I cover them with subsoil and then with shredded brushwood.

The problem was that I was knocking about some cuttings that were next to the path trench and I didn't want to do this anymore.  Instead I put the stones in a pile out of the way on the new allotment.  They will help to weigh down the carpets that I am putting there to cover the weeds.  

All the top soil is sieved now.
 Although the sieved top soil overflowed onto the trackway, it didn't do this as much as I expected.  I will easily be able to rake this back onto the allotment when I have finished the second trench.  This first trench is finished and there are only about twenty more to do.  

I put a line down for the second trench to keep myself
square to the trackway.  
The ground had dried out and was becoming hard.  The heat was good because it was drying out the weed rhizomes but working in this heat was not ideal.  There is now a big pile of stones which I will have to move at some point but it is more convenient to put stone here than anywhere else on the allotment.  

At some point I will have to take down the wooden construction and decide whether I am going to put it somewhere else.  It is mostly falling down.

So, after having several cups of tea and plums from the tree, I began taking out the second trench.  Again lots of weed rhizomes and stones.  Always have a tub with you when you are gardening.  They get magically filled even when you have not planned to do much in the garden.  

I could be sieving in compost and manure to the top soil while I am at it.  However, I think that I will add the compost and manure to the top soil later.  

Start of the second trench.

At this stage the ground was very hard and left curved sides.  The problem with trenches with curved sides is that a wedge of subsoil at the sides is not dug and can harbour weed rhizomes. Also it gives the subsoil a wavy structure that could be an advantage; making semi swales which will help to retain water and restrict its flow through the subsoil allowing it to be drawn up into the top soil by capillary action.  If the space between the ridges is filled with organic matter this will help retain moisture even in dry weather.  

Cross section of curved sided trench digging.

In spite of this possible advantage, I like to dig trenches with square sides making sure that all the soil is dug to the same level.  This ensures that all weeds are removed and you are starting with clean ground.  I may well be planting perennial soft fruit such as blackcurrants, raspberries and red currants and do not want their roots to be entwined with bind weed rhizomes.  

The new trench has been started in the ground that I dug over last winter.  The overlap means that all the soil is dug and sieved leaving no weed rhizomes in any of the soil profile.  This meant taking out the runner beans that I had grown up tripods of canes.  Experience has shown that tripods never stay upright especially in windy weather and these tripods suffered this fate.  Although I was keeping the bean pods for seed, I think that I will have plenty from the other plants.

Hard dry ground.
 There was no point in carrying on digging.  The temperature was far too hot and the ground far too hard.  There is no rush to finish and this project will be continued over the winter.  

I folded back the carpets a little more.  
I didn't need to fold the carpets back because they would have given me a base to put the top soil onto. However, I want to take these carpets off this allotment and cover the weeds on the next allotment to clear it for digging.  When I have dug back, I can take these two carpets off the ground and put them next door. Although these carpets have been very effective in clearing the top growth of weeds, care must be taken in using carpets.  Carpets contain lots of nasty chemicals to prevent them from rotting or being infested by insects in the home.  These carpets have been on the allotment for many years and were partially buried at the back.  Most of the unpleasant chemicals will have leached out giving a fairly safe material to cover the ground with.   It looks a mess at the moment but as I bury things and move them it will look much better.  

So not much done today. Might be cooler tomorrow.  

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