24. MARCH

At last I was able today to do some more work on Irene’s plot. Yesterday I just managed to dig over a small square of land with the idea of planting a little shrub there and some bulbs. I didn’t manage that because I wanted to do a spot of weeding in my orchard. The spot of weeding turned to be a massive action, even though I did this only some weeks ago. Amazing how well  the weeds grow. Anyway, orchard is looking good now so I carried on with the first idea on Irene’s plot – planting a shrub. I decided on sweet box (Sarcococca confusa). I have bought this shrub years ago as I wanted one flowering during the winter months. It didn’t disappoint, the scent is wonderful and fills the whole garden. It produces lots of little black berries and the seeds germinate very quickly. I have collected many seedlings and made a little hedge out of them on the allotment, beside one of my net tunnels. The bushes are growing very well and in the winter the scent is a wonderful boost to the morale. So now there is another one of them in a different part of the allotment, with some bulbs around it. Later on I’d like to scatter some annual flower seeds there as well.

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After this I cleared another small piece of land with a number of gooseberry bushes. It is rather good that Irene managed her plot this way, she had a number of small areas and now we find it quite easy to keep it tidy.

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As I was working there I could hear our resident robin singing nearby. I always talk to him, my friend told me that they can recognise the sound of your voice. He is quite tame now and looks for the worms as I dig. I was hoping to take a photo as he was on the ground but suddenly he landed on top of my hoe and just looked at me.

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AZADA

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.

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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.

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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.

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NO DIG

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.

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FRONT GARDEN

This afternoon was earmarked for some serious digging in the front garden.

The job started on Sunday, between the showers. There was a large yucca in my front garden, I got it as a small cutting about 20 years ago. It was flowering well but last year it started showing signs that all was not well. In a way I didn’t mind digging it out, it was taking valuable space from my other large specimen there, a loquat. That is grown from a seed – some years ago we went to Istanbul and had loquat fruit in a restaurant. Of course I had to save the seeds and on return home I planted them in a pot and they germinated. I can’t imagine ever having the fruit here but it is a handsome tree.

The roots of the yucca went down for ever but they and the whole trunk were really fibrous, difficult to cut with a saw but much easier to hack with my favourite tool, the azada. Much easier to use than pick axe, much lighter. I have already mentioned it in another post, from January 2015. One of my very favourite Christmas presents.

Now the square of soil is cleared of all weeds, it is ready for new plants. I have decided on Hellebores, they should do well, it is slightly shaded by the hedge, and as they are not tall, they will not compete with the loquat.

 

PARSNIP EXPERIMENT

My parsnip harvest last year wasn’t bad at all, they kept well in the ground and I pulled the last ones only a few weeks ago. They were also quite large and straight but all the same, I thought I’d experiment a bit.

I am not into growing giant vegetables but I thought I would borrow a bit of the idea behind growing massive parsnips. I didn’t want to have huge barrels of sand and then some tubes in the middle and just having one parsnip there – after all, I just want to grow them to eat!

I’ve acquired some sharp sand and my plot of land where I wanted to sow the parsnip seeds was ready so I made a fairly sizeable furrow with my new azada, filled it with sand, then crumbled some fine soil on top (enough to give the seeds something to germinate in and watered it. I sowed the seeds carefully in and gently covered with a thin layer of soil.

There are four rows with sand and two without, just to see how it will/or will not work. It is worth trying, I don’t mind and perhaps I’ll learn something new. The variety is the same as I had last year – Tender and True and Gladiator – I know they do well in my soil.

Fingers crossed we shall have a good harvest.

LIGHTWEIGHT AZADA

One of my many presents I had for Christmas was an amazing tool. Years ago I had a small version of it but by sheer overuse I managed to render it almost useless. The official name is an azada, it’s a double tool, a mix of a garden hoe and a mattock. Basically, a serious piece of kit.

It is all well and good to have modern tools with removable bits here and there but you can’t beat a standard traditional tool which will do exactly what you expect it to do and, with care, will last for years.

I think I’d better take care and live for another 25 years at least to get the most out of this tool and all the other innovations and constructions on the allotment.

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I have already treated the handle with some oil and now am just waiting to start using it. It suggests all sorts of uses, from breaking heavy soil to getting a ridge ready for potato planting.

Had a good read on the site from where I got the azada (Get Digging) and by the looks of it they have a good range of different tools, I might think of either adding some or getting a good replacement for a worn-out tool in the future.