Some years ago – seven to be exact -I was given a super gardening tool for Christmas. An azada -it looks like a cross between a hoe and a small rake. I have been using it all the time on the allotment and this year it came to its own. As I decided to adopt the ‘no-dig’ policy I use the azada instead. It slices through the soil like a knife through butter.
It looks well used and is as good as it was when I started. I wanted to sort out my last plot – there are some carrots, parsnips and leeks there but most of the ground is empty, the squashes and dwarf beans have been harvested. After working there for a number of years I’m pleased to say that it is reasonably empty of weeds. That’s why I decided to continue with the no-dig policy.
It took just about an hour and half to clear a reasonable part of the plot and the ground is lovely. Not many weeds to speak of and as little effort as possible. I think this is the way to go. I do enjoy digging but this method is much better for the soil.
I was hoping the weather would be kind to me today, yesterday was fine but first thing in the morning the sky was very grey and just as I was thinking of going to the allotment it started drizzling. Fortunately I started making more blankets, not the baby ones this time, I’m making large ones, either to throw over on the bed or wrap over your knees on a chilly winter’s day so I had something to keep me busy in the morning.
Everything improved after lunch and I was able to get to my ‘farm’. I’m continuing with my no-dig policy and it works just fine, the ground is reasonably weed free to start with and it takes much less effort.
Having finished this part I have only my orchard to do on this plot and that won’t be too difficult, I keep it quite tidy most of the time. I have got two more plots to do but one of them is almost done – there are four greenhouses on it, a raspberry patch and a line of composter bins so that won’t take too much time either. On the last plot I have three net cages, a number of rows of parsnips and carrots so all in all things are looking up.
I’m putting the greenhouses to sleep for the winter but there are a few things in one of them. I am very pleased with my red pepper, it is the very first time I managed to grow them.
I have always resisted the gardening gurus’ encouragement to stop digging. My argument was that I have to clear the ground of all the weeds, there was no point in leaving the ground as it was after harvesting whatever I grew there. This year is different. I have harvested my potatoes and to my surprise the ground was almost weed free. All I had to do was to level it with my favourite tool – the azada, it has got a blade on one side and a claw on the other – and the job was done. Then I scattered a mix of chicken poo pellets and fish, blood and bone fertiliser and I’m ready to plant my garlic there. I will use my own garlic, I had a very good harvest so I can spare some.
I was catching up with some more digging yesterday afternoon and today. It was the right kind of weather, especially today, it turned rather cold and grey, just as the forecast predicted.
This piece of land was used to be in my care a few years ago but I gave it up when somebody in charge of adults with health problems expressed interest. I thought it a great idea but it never took off. My friend on the site took it on but this year said that her own plot was enough work for her and didn’t want to carry on. So it came back to me.
As I enjoy digging it was not difficult. It is all done and this way I can grow many more pumpkins and squashes because all the other land is already earmarked for other things. It would have been the case to fit them in wherever there was a bit of room.
The soil is lovely, the larger part of it was covered with tarpaulin and we kept some woodchip on it. All that was gone now and it will be back in production. I can’t wait to see all my huge Maltese pumpkins growing there.
There is a narrow strip of ground at the very end of one of my plots. When I took this plot on it was overgrown with nettles and basically used as a tip by the last gardener. I cleared it as much as I could and by doing that found quite a few interesting things – an old wooden ladder, still good to be used. The other bits of rubbish I threw away, broken pots and some netting. I planted a couple of my Maltese pumpkins there and they loved it so much they climbed all the way to the top of the hedge behind. However now I have harvested everything and decided to dig this area properly this time.
I didn’t realise the challenge waiting for me there. When I finally finished I had a large rubbish sack full of more broken plastic pots, some chicken wire netting and a big piece of some material buried really deep that didn’t show any signs of deterioration – no idea why it was there. One item is interesting though – a head of a cast iron rake minus the handle. I won’t try to re-assemble it, just keep it as a curio.
After a hard morning’s dig the land looks great, ready for next year. All I have to do now is to spread a sack of horse muck and let it rest. There will be potatoes growing there next year.
I am sure that I have found the perfect way to keep fit – it works for me, anyway. It means that I have to walk a short distance to our allotment site, about five minutes away, lock the gate after myself and start working. As long as it doesn’t rain too much I can continue. If the soil should be too wet I would choose a different activity from digging.
Today was just ideal – a nice sunny and warm morning – I managed to do what I wanted to during the morning, the next job was left for the afternoon.
This isn’t actually my plot, it belongs to a guy who isn’t very well so I dug it for him. I had an ulterior motive – I wanted to get rid of all the thistles before they finished flowering so we don’t get the seeds blown all over the site. Job done.
The afternoon session was work on my own plot, it was weeding one of my raspberry patches. I had to borrow a wheelie bin from one of my friends in the street as the ground was full of bindweed and that can’t go on the compost. I finished just in time, there were dark clouds gathering and when I got home it started raining.
I am very fortunate having my allotment so that I can just go there and dig. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not going to worry about things that I can’t do anything about. Therefore I just concentrate on the ‘farm’ and cultivate as much as I can. We are not able to eat it all, of course, but the neighbourhood benefits, I bottle and freeze as much as I can. It will all be very useful. When I work there I listen to the birds and talk to my own resident robin. He really thinks I dig the ground just for him so he can find all the worms. He is very tame, he keeps only a few steps behind me. I sometimes think that nature was especially good to me this year, the harvest has been great.
Even though I’m getting older I am still quite fit and well and really enjoy working the land.
One happy old woman.
Here we go again – another autumn, another clear out operation. My plan is quite simple – I aim to complete one task each time I go to the allotment. Yesterday it was clearing out one net cage and weeding (again) a bed after garlic has been harvested some time ago.
Today was the turn of the orchard. Managed to weed, hoe and re-do the stepping stone path in front of the shed, I’m happy with the result.
Another job I finished today was weeding and digging inside one small net cage. I had some broad beans there, they did very well, no sign of any blackfly, then I put some tomatoes and celery in. The tomatoes have finished, just the celery remains.
Yesterday was quite difficult. I have decided to put a scaffolding plank as an edge to a narrow strip of soil beside this net cage, to keep the soil in, and making it deeper. I knew the planks are heavy, but I didn’t think they were this heavy! Too late to change my mind when I was half way down the main path dragging it behind me. Never mind, it all ended well.
My prefect therapy in these difficult times is digging on the allotment. It is one activity that I don’t really have to think about, just dig….I think of it as if it were meditation.
It is easy to plan the next year’s growing, think of things to do next, listen to the birds – all in all a tonic for the soul.Never mind the weather, as long as it is nor raining I can dig. Our site doesn’t get waterlogged, it drains very quickly. Even on a wet day I can work in one of my greenhouses. Talking of greenhouses, I’m very happy, I have acquired yet another one, a third one. The same size as the other two, also a rescued one. It actually belonged to an old lady whose garden was next door to our site. It wasn’t too difficult to move the dismantled structure over the fence. As it is such an old one I will need to get some new panes of glass but that is no hardship….Now I can plan what to grow in them. Easy – one will be just aubergines, the next one peppers and chilies and the third will be tomatoes.
Today is a bit special – I have finished all my digging, any empty piece of land is dug over, cleared of weeds and ready to be planted up.
It was the very last part of the allotment, my new orchard. The ground there will be used to grow courgettes, squashes and pumpkins. There is enough space between the trees, I had them there last year and it worked very well.
All that work didn’t really take too much time, it was just a question of turning the soil over and getting rid of some persistent weeds.
One more activity today, rather easier –bread making. This loaf is very easy, doesn’t need kneading or yeast, just a can of beer. Delicious!