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…………………


Anonymous Soilman said...

Great to see you back! Know how it feels to dig soil like that... Nearly killed me last year. The key is little and often -not mammoth 8-hr days. That just makes you hate it.

Good luck!!

3:50 pm  
Blogger lilymarlene said...

Hurrah! I've missed your posts.

Take it'll get there in the end...

7:15 pm  
Blogger RobD said...

Good to see you back! Is clay a typical Northamptonshire thing? My grandad has it over at Crick, but then he has a field and a mini tractor ;>) You'd have thought they'd have ploughed it after scraping the top off really? Good luck, take care of that back!

7:34 pm  
Blogger Woody Wilbury said...

Welcome back.

I'd go for the rotavotor option too!!

8:52 pm  
Blogger Greenmantle said...

Not really typical here Rob. According to the geological maps at work, I should be on Esturine silt deposits, overlying Northampton Sandstone. But there are localised clay pockets some places. I have discovered today the allotments were laid out by the old GLC of all people about 31 years ago, to serve a big new London overspill estate. Apparently the before handing the plots over, they sold off all the topsoil, to help fund the cost of laying the site out.... This would explain quite a lot!

10:59 pm  
Blogger Frankie @ Veg Plot said...

Welcome Back! Well at least it will make interesting reading seeing how you turn this around!!!

5:38 am  
Blogger antipodesgirl said...

I would say a good bit of lasagna bedding is the way to go. Otherwise how are you going to manage to dig all that? As well as getting in a good bit of manure etc, spread, cover, leave.

12:37 pm  

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