Thursday, 22 January 2015

Continuing to raise the allotment with trench Hugelkultur (11)

Although I don't think that it is necessary, I am continuing to trench the new allotments.  I go down more than two spits adding organic matter to all layers of the soil.  I doubt that this increases the yield of crops or their size particularly or if it does, the increase does not justify the amount of work necessary.

I start to feel very guilty, after watching Geoff Lawton's permaculture videos, that my methods are old fashioned and possibly destructive.

And then I look at my soil and see how it has improved over the year I have been cultivating it. The top soil has improved both in soil life and fertility. Not only that but the cropping system that including a rotation of legumes has enlivened the soil  These allotments were worked out.  They had been cropped and weeds removed for years without any replenishment.  They were consolidated hard pieces of ground with very few worms and lots of deep rooted weeds.  Just mulching and leaving it to the non existent worms did not seem to be an option. However, with a better more fertile, less weedy allotment, I would just cover and mulch.

I started the trench across the bottom quarter of the new half allotment taking out the top soil.
New trench across the bottom of
allotment 3b
The soil looks quite passable in the photograph but most of the weeds have died down and survive the winter as rhizomes deep underground.  It is thin and dusty and needs a lot of organic matter added.

I had to clear off several large pieces of plywood which I could not break up.  I have stored them behind the shed under some carpets.  I just hope that this does not attract the rats.  They seem to like burrowing beneath carpets.  I also put the canes and stakes that were on this piece of ground, together with the black plastic covering,  behind the shed in a store area.  As I work down this part of the allotment I will put more things in the store area.  I am storing the canes in upright pallets which are secured to the ground with iron bars found on the allotment.  However, I have temporarily run out of pallets because I am using them to dry the weed rhizomes before I put them into a compost bin. These are the very invasive weed rhizomes that easily regenerate so must be dried carefully.
Weed rhizomes drying before going on the
As I take the rhizomes out I put them into a tub and then empty the tub onto the pile on the pallets. There is a lot of nutrients locked up in these weeds so I don't want to remove them from the allotment.  I have proved to myself that I can compost these safely if they are confined; so that's what I am going to do with them.  I can't leave the pile here because I want to use the pallets now.
Pile getting bigger.
There is a bit of ivy mixed with the rhizomes because I have dug out the hedge behind the shed. The pile is on a large piece of concrete reinforcing wire which I am going saw up and attach to the shed for the white clematis to climb up. I have taken several cuttings of the white clematis in the garden and put them into the cold frame.  I'm not too sure how many I put into the pot but it was lots.

If I attach the reinforcing wire to the back of the shed then I can use it to store the large canes by tying them horizontally onto the wire.

As I have been digging out the first trench, I have come across these scary Calystegia sepium nodules.  
Scary Calystegia sepium nodules

Each of these shoot buds can easily grow from 14 to 20 feet long and I am digging out several of them from each trench.  
Very scary
The good thing though, is that there is not very much mare's tail, Equisetum arvensis - at the moment.

Trusty bread tray sieve.  
Stones left after sieving.
As I dig along the trench, I sieve the top soil through the trusty bread tray sieve, which helps me to
clear the ground of these pernicious weeds.  Progress is quite slow, however the benefits of 
Slow progress
sieving outweigh the disadvantage.  It helps to remove the weeds; it mixes the soil and the fertilisers added; it removes large stones and it makes a very friable topsoil.  It produces a deep, fertile topsoil that would take at least five to ten years to create with conventional digging and even longer with no digging at all.

The only reason  I  remove  large stones is because they prevent me from making a lovely smooth seed bed.  When you rake along the garden line before making a drill for seeds, you are left with a small pile of stones which you don't know what to do with.  Also when raking soil back into the drills, large stones seem to materialize from nowhere and fall into the drill.

I am using two tubs at the moment; one for weed rhizomes and the other for stones and blue plastic specks.  The specks have come from blue sheets of plastic that people put on the soil.  Don't use blue plastic sheets.  They are translucent; they don't kill the weeds and they become brittle and break up into tiny pieces.

I am going to plant more raspberries across the allotment here adding the support poles and plants as  the top soil is returned to the trench.  I will take out some of the subsoil completely and put it on the paths.  This will be replaced by topsoil scavenged from behind the shed.  There was a mound of soil, which might have been a compost heap at one time, under the hedge.  It was very friable and full of organic matter.  I will use this to deepen the root run of the raspberry plants.

Sieved top soil. Also set up my worm bin in
the blue butt.  I have put some bindweed
rhizomes in to see if the worms will deal with
This top soil had not had any organic matter added to it for some time.  Although it has been left fallow for about three years, I need to add a lot  of manure to help to replenish the supply of organic matter.

The wooden path edging is decaying.  I am keeping this edging because I have nothing else to restrain the soil when I put it back onto the growing area.  Wood rots; I've just got to get over it.  I really don't like using it though.

Still a lot to clear.
There is  still some way to go to clear all of this part of the allotment but you just have to be relentless.  As you can see I will have a lot of tiny blue plastic specks to deal with as I dig back. There is still a lot of rotting wood on the allotment which will be buried under subsoil in the trench. The trenches will get several barrow loads of woody chippings which will be dug into the subsoil together with farmyard manure, which will be dug into the topsoil.

I have several pieces of woodwork to take down.  They will just be in the way and they are all rotting.  I will be able to use some of the wood for stakes but anything that is too rotten will just be buried deep in the trench.
However the weeds will come back with
a vengeance in the spring.
Adding lots of organic matter will raise the whole allotment about eight to twelve inches above the original level.

I raise allotments not just beds.

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