Friday, April 30, 2010

Praying For Rain...

Here's hoping the weather is true to form this Bank Holiday, and properly pisses down all weekend.

I want it to soak my rock hard plot, so that I can then cover it with black plastic to keep the moisture in, and dig over a bed or two at my leisure ( Huh...yeah right!) next week.

I would do a raindance, but I think the ground has probably been flattened enough by the council digger, without me adding insult to injury......

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On The Unreliable Nature Of Men And Their Equipment....

One balmy evening last week, a man came to me with honeyed words, and told me he that could give me my heart’s desire.

That is to say, he met me at the plot, and assured me he had the wherewithal to rotavate it within an inch of it’s life. His machine was apparently legendary at his own allotment. He was a landscaper by trade he said, and encouraged by his cheerful patter and firm handshake I found myself telling him my plans….This is where the fruit cage will go, over there the shed, and here be dragons.

Come Saturday morning though, as it emerged from his truck, I have to say his equipment did not look quite so big or impressive in the flesh as it had sounded in the boasting. Nonetheless I made flattering comments as we discussed the horsepower and strange foreign transmission system, and he set to with a will.

He huffed and puffed, and the machine roared, and whirred it’s tines with fury, but maddeningly just skittered and skated over the surface. We moved to another position and fell to again, but sadly the task was proving beyond him. The ground continued to just lay there, stubborn and unyielding. Like a woman’s heart.

The poor chap was clearly a bit embarrassed at this point, and swore he never usually had this problem. I felt sorry for him, and said “It’s not you, it’s me.” Me and my ridiculously hard soil. Clearly no rotavator could be expected to operate in those conditions. We must have been fools to suppose otherwise…..Though perhaps if he rested for bit and tried again?

But in truth our enthusiasm had evaporated by this point, and the moment was gone. So he put his machine back in his truck and left.

So any gardener's dreams I may theoretically have had, of sneaking back later and rolling naked in the moonlight in a bed of beautiful fine tilth, now looked withered and small. ……Much like the four bags of seed potatoes I had prematurely bought on the way there.

As for the plot, well I’ll just have to go back to doing it manually.......

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Like A Phoenix From The Flames...........

Well, if not a phoenix exactly, perhaps a sparrow from the ashes then.

After 2 ½ years on the waiting list I have a new allotment ….. Mine, all mine, for the princely sum of £28.00 a year!

The Southfields site that I looked at way back when Moses was a lad, and posted about on my other blog has now been extended. The Association finally won a hard fought battle with the Council for funding to re-open a part of the site that was mothballed about 10 years ago when you couldn't give plots away. (Urgh, digging - how unfashionable!) This has created somewhere around 30 new (old) plots, and catapulted me up the waiting list.

And here the really good news ends. Having been left to go wild for all that time, the land reverted to grassy scrub, with whitethorn and brambles dotted all over it.

This is a hastily grabbed camera-phone picture taken in March, before any clearance work was done. Plot 63 (It’s mine I tell ya!) is helpfully picked out in magic red pen. As you can see it’s a gentle slope, running roughly NE at the top of my plot to SW at the bottom.

And here’s a view of area now it has been ”scraped” by the council, with a 40 tonne excavator. ….10 poles of weed and clay never looked so daunting.

And clay is the overriding factor really. There’s about a foot of heavy topsoil, and then a layer of clay proper. Since it’s been exposed, flattened by the heavy machine, and the sun has got to it, it’s started to bake hard.

Digging it is rather like one the Twelve Labors of Hercules. It’s hard on top, claggy underneath, and each forkful comes up with the sickening, wrenching sound of torn root weeds. Every sod has to be picked over by hand. A bit like winkling out reluctant spaghetti. This small square is the unimpressive result of about 2 hours toil.

If I sound disheartened, I’m not. I'm chuffed to buggery actually, but there’s no hiding from the fact that it's going to be a long hard slog.

Sooooo…… I have abandoned all my better instincts and am arranging for a friend of a friend with a big tool ….ahem…. commercial rotavator, to come and blitz it for me.

Yes, I know it will chop up and bury all the weed. And yes, I know I’ll be digging it out for evermore. But as it stands, in two weeks time I won’t be able to get a fork in it unless I do something now. I’ll still hand dig the beds again, and pick as much weed out as I can before planting…. I promise.

And besides, who’s to say Hercules wouldn’t have used power tools given half a chance…………………