Sunday, 10 November 2013

Starting to clear and triple dig an allotment (7)

I have been plugging away at digging and sieving the allotment over the last month.  At times it has been quite wet and difficult to work.  The subsoil is a mixture of sand and clay which can become very waterlogged.

The green manure of tares, rye and crimson clover, has germinated and grown on very well.
I sowed the seeds in lines to make sure that I could cover the ground.  I have weeded between the rows but I have left the weeds that have germinated since to dig in with the green manure.  I doubt if many of the weeds will flower and set seeds before the spring now.
I have started to plant a new strawberry bed alongside the trackway but this may have to be altered because I am setting in curbing concrete slabs along the track.  These strawberries are Elsanta, which are said to be bland.  I had never heard of them before encountering them growing on this allotment, however they did taste really good.  Most of the new ones will be Cambridge and Marshmallow mainly because I already have 30 of these offsets growing in pots.
The green manure has produced some good healthy coloured plants.  They are taking up the surplus nutrients in the soil and storing it away for the winter so that it can be dug back into the soil in the spring,. This green manure was sown in September and this is the best time for germination.   I will probably have alliums in this area  next spring.  

I have put two posts in to support the wires for the grape vine. I don't know whether the posts are in the correct place and will have to measure their positions again.   I am going to prune the vines to the guyot system.
The guyot system.

This green manure planted in October is not growing on as fast.  I have also sown some broadcast a week ago but this has not germinated. (10/11/2013) I am not going to sow any more green manure until next spring now.  The newly dug soil will just have to be exposed to the elements over the winter.  I will be getting some horse manure later and will use this to cover as much of the ground as possible.  I am putting 1 foot square slabs along the trackway.  This will be useful in several different ways.  It will retain the soil and give me an edge to work from but also it will give me an easy way of measuring out lines of vegetables.  I am going to put two foot square slabs down the path and this will help me to measure out spacings too.  I have planted a Sorbus vilmorinii, one of a number grown from seed,  in the corner.  It was liberally dosed with mychorrhizal fungi and hopefully this will spread to the vegetables next year.  The theory is that the vegetables will be able to tap into the photosynthetic products produced by the tree and nutrients that the fungi has gleaned from the soil.

I am going to plant a hedge of rooted bay cuttings along the one foot slabs and then plant some Pyracantha rogersiana, grown from seed, when I run out of bay cuttings.  About 12 sage plants, grown from seed, will be planted down the path, followed by a similar number of rosemary plants.

I planted some spearmint under the first path slab so that it would grow through the cracks.  Every time that it is trodden on it will give out a beautiful minty odour.  The mint had mychorrhiza fungi over its roots too.

The sieved top soil looks in fine shape.  I am adding horse manure, pea and bean tops and annual weeds about 12 inches down.  

Although there are still little bits of  bindweed and mare's tail rhizomes still left in the soil, most of the larger pieces have been removed using the sieve. Six, yard width trenches have been completed and the seventh is marked out with the garden line.

Although I want to move the compost heap, the area marked out by the pallets is particularly useful for shreddings, manure and grass to be left.  Trailers can just be backed in from the carpark and emptied.  While I may well move the compost, I will construct a fence along the side to prevent manure being tipped over the plants.

I am taking out the central path and putting it on the near side of this photograph.  The trench is dug right across the allotment path so that I can remove all the rhizomes in the soil.  The path part of the trench is then filled with stones sieved out of the dug top soil and subsoil from the trench.  The topsoil from the path is just added to the growing area and not wasted underneath the concrete slabs of the path.

Although the soil where I am about to dig looks fairly clean, I have only hoed and raked off  the surface rhizomes, however there are numerous rhizomes below the surface of the soil.

The carpets have been successful in removing the green tops of the weeds, which makes digging  easier.  I found these carpets at the back of the allotment when I took it over.  They must have been there for many years because they were covered in several layers of composted material.  New carpets have nasty chemicals in them and I would never use them on an allotment.

However they do not stop the rhizomes from growing underneath.

I have turned back the big thick green tarpaulin and found lots of bind weed rhizomes.  I was hoeing off all the ones that were growing out of the edges,however  it seems that the rhizomes have decided to grow under the bark chippings of the path.  I doubt if they will have gone down very far but it means that I will have to carefully sieve the path stones to make sure that I get all the bindweed out.  

Blue plastic does not stop weeds growing because it lets light through.  It also breaks up into little pieces which are hard to remove from the soil.  The blue plastic was on the allotment before I put the carpets and tarpaulin over the weeds.

I still have this much of the allotment to dig and remove the bindweed and mare's tail.  The carpets and tarpaulins are useful now but I am not too sure what I will do with them after I have cleared and dug the allotment.  Lots of rain has made digging difficult but I am endeavouring to persevere.

The half allotment that I planted this year has produced some passable vegetables.  The winter crops will start to be used now.

Lots of the plants like the cardoon in the foreground will have to be moved to make way for the greenhouse. I have continued the raspberry row along the path at the back of the allotment.  I have planted most of the Malling Admiral and tied them to the wires.  They were planted with mychorrhizal fungi.  As the raspberries are near to the Crataegus monogyna, I am hoping that the mychorrhiza will tap into the roots of the hawthorn and transfer nutrients to the raspberries.

The small apple tree is a ribston pippin that I grafted onto an M9 rootstock.  This tree will have to be moved because it is in the way.  I have three other rootstocks that I want to graft onto in late winter.  I need to find some good scions first though.

The four rhubarb plants have died back now and can only be identified by the bamboo canes.  They will be moved down the allotment out of the way later in the winter.

The stones have been removed from the old path and put into the new and covered with subsoil.  The old path hole will be filled with top soil from the new path.  And so on to trench seven...

Before I complete this trench I will need some more brushwood shreddings; brushwood from pruned garden shrubs; old shrubs I am taking out of the garden, horse manure, and any other organic matter I can get my hands on.

Then on again to dig out another trench.

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