Despite storm Gertrude, yesterday I went down to the allotment for the first time this year. I decided to walk as I need more exercise and have set myself walking targets for each month in 2016.
It started windy and when I was halfway to the allotment, the heavens opened and I seriously thought about turning back. However, I continued and the rain passed over leaving it just wet underfoot.
The allotment site was empty (hardly surprising) and as I walked around to my plot, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be doing a lot of work, the ground was completely sodden, much too sticky and wet to dig without breaking your back because of the weight of the sodden soil and compacting the ground where you stood. I had dug about half the beds at the end of last year so (hopefully) there won’t be too much to do when the weather improves and the soil dries out.
However, there was something I had planned to do so I got on with it.
As I’ve said before, my allotment is divided up into eleven roughly equal sized beds, each about 7m long by 1.75m wide. It started like than because I wanted to dig as little as possible so I wanted well defined paths. About three years ago, I laid weed suppressant membrane on the paths because I was spending an awful lot of time cutting the grass on the paths between the beds. I put chippings on top of the membrane so that I wouldn’t slip when it was muddy. However, over the time, couch grass and weeds have grown in the chippings which have become mixed with soil off the beds. So this year, I decided I would strip the paths back to the membrane and leave the membrane exposed so that weeds won’t grow in it.
An hour and a half later, I had stripped most of the paths and carried the rubbish to the compost heaps. It was wet, soggy, heavy and (basically) awful and probably not the most sensible way of starting digging for the year – particularly as I then had to walk the two miles back home into the teeth of a strong (though not cold) wind. However, it was worth it and gives me the impetus to go back another day and finish off.
I’ve had the allotment a few years now and, despite quantities of cow manure, mushroom compost, leaf mould and garden compost, the soil is still essentially very heavy with thick yellow clay just over a spade depth down despite all the double digging that I’ve done. The allotment site slopes down from the top and my plot is just at the point where it levels out so the water drains down from the higher plots and I guess that’s why my plot (and the ones just around) are quite heavy. However, it isn’t as bad as the plot a few further down where there is water standing on the surface. Hopefully the wind and sun will start to dry everything out and we’ll be able to start growing again.
Which brings me neatly to the last part of this entry, I sowed my first seeds today. Just some cabbages, mizuna, rocket and basil but it always makes me happy when it seems worthwhile putting seeds to compost.