I think that it was John Loudon who said that grass paths have no place in the kitchen garden. They are a pain in the neck in the allotment too. Grass paths get churned up when the weather is wet particularly if you are wheeling a wheelbarrow over them constantly. They get full of weeds which incessantly encroach on growing areas regardless of how diligently they are removed or cut back. Finally, grass paths take a lot of maintenance with frequent mowing and edging.
John Loudon, in agreement with many other Victorian horticulturalists, said that the gravel path was ideal for the walled kitchen garden. I would like to add my agreement too. However, there is no way I have the time or inclination to make gravel paths around the allotment so I have compromised by having paths made from two foot square concrete slabs.
While they are not as evil as the 3' x 2' slabs they can still be nasty pieces of work especially if they fall on your foot. Most of these slabs are the 2 inch thick versions and they are heavy... Thick, heavy and hard wearing are good when talking about allotment paths. They do not dent or rutt in wet weather, they suppress weeds, they make wheeling the barrow really easy, I can walk around the allotment in wet weather without getting my shoes dirty and I can clean the paths with a garden brush really easily.
I have collected the slabs over the years at my old allotment so I have more than enough to make the paths.
I have made the main path between allotment two and allotment 3A because this will lead to the shed. The path will continue along the hedge to the small shed, which was a toilet and will probably be one again when I have constructed or inherited a shed for my tools. Another path will go from the hedge path to the greenhouse - about 24 feet. So three paths are all I need allowing the rest of the allotment to be growing areas.
In order not to waste topsoil underneath the slabs, I have thrown it up on the growing areas and replaced this good soil with subsoil dug from the bottom of digging trenches and stones sieved from the top soil. As the subsoil is very clay like, the subsoil foundations for the paths are becoming rock hard and an ideal surface to lay slabs onto.
I have given up one half of the old allotment and am slowly dismantling it. I took out the path to the tap and the slab curbing and took the slabs to the new allotment. As I was leaving the 2' 6'' slabs, I eventually took thirteen slabs to the new allotment today. The 2' 6'' slabs are too heavy to maneuver easily so rather than injure myself they will have to be left in situ for someone younger and dafter to deal with.
I need to add more subsoil foundation to the main path because it is a little low where the new slabs will be laid, so I left the slabs on the allotment next to the trackway. Either I will 'walk' the slabs down to the work area or wheelbarrow them down. I will get the subsoil from the new trench I am digging in allotment 3A and replace the subsoil with shredded woody material.
I am going to have a comfrey bed at the front of allotment 3A so I am not adding any compost or fertiliser to this topsoil. I want the comfrey to throw down long roots and tap the nutrients deep in the soil. Their roots will grow into the shredded material with little or no detriment particularly as it will be at least two spits down.
In order to remove most of the bindweed and mare's tail, it is easier to sieve the top soil than try to pick out the perennial weeds with a fork. So I am sieving into the wheelbarrow at the moment and putting the top soil on a carpet away from the pernicious weeds. I will put this top soil back into the trench after adding shredded material to the trench and covering with a thin layer of subsoil.
I will continue to lay the two foot slabs on Friday because tomorrow I am going to do the garden at home. I will mow the lawns and prune back some of the shrubs. This will mean that I will need somewhere to put the prunings and mowings at the new allotment. I have an empty Dalek compost bin at the old allotment and this would be ideal to bring to the new allotment for the garden green waste.
Another reason for completing the main path is to give me an edge with curbing from which to measure drills for the root seeds. I want to sow 3 or 4 rows of carrots next to the path and I am waiting until the path is finished before I start on this job. I will need to bring the wire supports and the fine, enviromesh netting from the old allotment to cover the carrots against Chamaepsila rosae,carrot root fly. When I have done this I will be able to measure out where the drills for parsnips and beetroot will go.
I usually sow my parsnips during March but this year they will be a little late. I expect I will still get too many to eat and have to give away many, as I did this year.
The other side of this bed will be for leafy vegetables and I will be planting the Sanguisorba minor, salad burnet. I did not realise that it was a perennial until last year and was religiously resowing every year. This year, I have kept the plants. I have also brought the chrysanthemums from the old allotment and will palnt them in the new allotment where there is some space. I will just let them grow this year and not try to get very large blooms.
I have taken all of last year's comfrey liquid to the new allotment and drained out the comfrey tubs. I will clean them and take them down to the new allotment. They are up on pedicels so that a watering can or tub can fit under the tap. The pedicels are made from slabs and bricks stacked on top of each other and will easily be dismantled and taken to the new allotment. I am going to put both tubs next to the little shed where there is just enough space for them.
So, today was a backwards and forwards day; carting a load of stuff.