Saturday, 5 July 2014

Digging holes, my way

I am feeling quite pleased with myself.  With an almost daily effort of around 2 hours I am almost half way through my half plot in both ridding it of weeds and also planting some vegetables.

The technique I have adopted starts by digging a hole.  I have talked to some people on the allotments who have reported how hard the ground is, some using the term "impossibly hard".  Well, I can't think my plot is any harder or softer.  In fact the pit I just re-filled was full of packed clay.  Given the ground was covered with grass, which a week ago I had strimmed, I found the best starting point was to skim just below the grass with my trusty spade.  Once below the grass, apart from areas of arguably pure clay, the ground had moisture enough to make digging quite reasonable.  The biggest problem for this piece of earth was a quantity of stones, and no spade can get through a stone, no matter how damp the weather.

Whilst digging down I kept pulling out weeds.  Here's a picture of just one tray full of them.  All the soil (and other weeds yet to be sorted) gets piled to one side.  One thing that is interesting is that the pile seems to get bigger than the hole, even without the weeds that have been pulled out.  I guess this is a sign that the soil (and clay) is becomes less compacted.

To help find the weeds I keep looking for lumps of soil.  Weeds act as the binding agent, thus if there is a lump of soil, then typically inside it is part of a weed.  I generally stop digging when I am about a spade and half deep, but that all depends on what deep roots I am finding.  Whatever the depth any large root is coming out, one way or another.

Once dug I like to call it a day for that hole and leave everything overnight.  I find this has a benefit of helping remaining clumps of soil (on the large pile) dry out as the air gets to them, and then finding more weed roots is easier.  In a new day I feel better at spotting weed roots.

It then remains to begin to refill the hole.  I do this with either spade or rake to help draw the soil back down all the time filtering out weeds, however large or small.

There is no such thing as a totally weed-free.  However providing I have got rid of all the big roots and as many of the smaller weeds as I can then that's my limit.  When the hole is nearly full again I start adding some compost to help build some fresh nutrition.  Topping off with a last layer of soil, and I am ready for planting.

I do not say my technique is right, the easiest or even the best.  But it is my way and so far any plants I have planted seem to be growing in both reasonably weed-free soil and also the soil is easy to dig to get out any small weeds that will appear.

In this ex-hole I planted twelve beetroot plants.

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