Still digging …

Apparently, I can either garden or I can blog about gardening. This spring and summer I have mostly done the former rather than the latter. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride but I can now confidently say that the allotment and the back garden are under my control, and the front garden will be shortly.

I am most pleased about having got the allotment under proper cultivation after two years of struggling. Top and Middle Third are between them supporting potatoes, courgettes, sweet corn, various winter squashes, a row of raspberries, a blackberry hedge, lettuce and, with luck, dwarf French beans, some Florence fennel and some beetroot. It’s all been a bit hugger-mugger to get everything in before it was too late, but I am now happy that there will be crops.

Mostly, I have the grubbing mattock to thank for this turn-around in allotment fortunes. It really is the best tool ever created. Once I hacked through the dry crust of the beds with the mattock it was so much easier to turn the soil, and having once been turned, it has stayed friable, despite the extreme oscillation between sun and rain. The soil is really a pleasure to work and now it is under my control I am hoping to maintain that happy situation. Considering I came within an ace of finally, after two and a half years of struggle, surrendering my tenancy, I’m glad I hung on for a month or two longer. Going to the allotment regularly is enjoyable rather than a strain.

More than that, we have finally moved on to tackling Bottom Third, which has, apart from a compost bin, been derelict since I took over the plot. We laid weed-suppressing landscaping fabric last year, to try to get to grips with the bindweed problem and thought we had failed because the bindweed kept on growing out of the gaps. However, when we took up some of fabric we found that things weren’t as bad as we’d feared. There is an awful lot of bindweed root to dig out by hand but we’ve managed to kill off most of the other perennial weeds and, armed with the trusty mattock, we will be able to break up the iron-hard ground and work on improving it ready for my blackcurrants, rhubarb and raspberries (and possibly, later, an asparagus bed).

My other half also resited the compost bins to make better use of the available ground and they are much sturdier now. Digging out the ‘compost’ was a bit of a pain but we sorted out soil from garden waste and reloaded the bin with the latter, some green garden clippings from home, some paper shreddings, some sawdust cat litter, and I did all the things I normally do to my highly successful garden compost bin (lots of watering, a thick covering of wet newspaper – the Evening Standard is particularly efficacious, in my view – and a covering of landscape fabric) and it has started to cook away happily. Slugs, snails, woodlice and worms have all begun moving in so I am confident that between them, the damp newspapers, and a lot of turning over, I’ll soon have another well-run compost bin. I would like to scale down the amount of composting I do at home, substitute the two-bin system for a wormery to deal with the bulk of kitchen scraps and then compost garden rubbish in the allotment bins. I am now a step closer to that dream.

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