Friday, 21 October 2016

Top Soil

An allotmenteer was struggling to his car with two large plastic bags of weeds so I offered to take them off his hands and compost them.  The bags were full of bind weed and couch grass so he was reluctant to hand them over thinking that he would do me a disservice. 

I assured him that he would be doing me a favour. All I saw were bags of nutrients and top soil.  They would have to be processed and composted before I could use them on the allotment but they were still a good potential source of soil conditioners. 

They were clearing a new allotment which was covered in  weeds.  Now, I had to consider whether the top soil would have any diseases like club root or onion white rot because I might introduce them into my allotment.  I thought that I might as well take a chance because I am regularly  putting imported material into the soil .  I have composted the weeds around the car park, which used to be an allotment as well as other weeds from vacant spaces. 

My rational was that overgrown allotments usually produced very good crops once they have been cleared.  They have been left fallow for a number of years and the fertility has been built up.  Nutrients have been  concentrated in the living things at the soil surface and these have been recycled as the plants and animals have died and returned them to the soil. 

If I was correct then this top soil, associated with the weeds, would be very fertile.  However, there did not seem to be very much top soil left on the roots. 

Usually, before composting weeds like this, I like to dry them and, to make this easier, I sieved the soil off the roots using the bread tray sieve.  I have put a square centimeter metal grid in the bread tray to protect the plastic mesh.  It is getting a little old now. 
Sieving the weeds
It is remarkable how much top soil came off the weeds.  The sieved weeds are next to the barrow and the unsieved ones are next to the pallets.  I got another barrow load of topsoil from these unsieved ones.  So sieving the weeds gave me two barrows of topsoil, weeds that could be dried and lots of material for a new compost bin. 

The top soil was dug in with the fenugreek where I am going to put in a winter cover crop of grazing rye and tares.  This will be next season's roots bed.


  1. I don't have your energy Tony but I do admire your opportunism.
    I hate to see gardeners wasting good topsoil!

    1. Not sure about the energy Roger but, unlike so many allotmenteers, I do have the time. I am just very surprised at how much soil was sticking to the roots. This is the first time I have sieved weeds given to me. Usually I just dry them and compost them. I did not realise just how much top soil I was gaining.

  2. Tony, how dry should bindweed roots be before you put them on the compost heap? We are still digging up loads of bindweed on the allotment we have been slowly clearing for a couple of years. Most of it we have transported to the tip, but I have wondered whether there is a way of putting it to use.