It’s been a quiet few weeks on the allotment recently, so I’ve decided to step things up a bit and get the ground prepared for planting. I’m starting most of the vegetables off in doors to try to give them the best chance of survival so there isn’t any real urgency to have the beds prepared yet, but as I’ve got quite a few to do, I thought it best to take advantage of the good weather and get cracking.
Last summer I decided to use a process called soil solarisation to kill off and control the weeds that had grown in the vegetable beds. I covered the plots with black polythene so that when the sun shone, the heat generated would warm the ground and kill the weeds. This worked really well, and by Autumn I was able to remove the dead weeds and dig up any brambles that had taken root. I left the plots uncovered for the winter so that the frosts would break up the clods of soil which in turn would make cultivation in the spring a whole lot easier. So, armed with my garden fork, hand fork, a bucket and a couple of planks of wood to stand on I started to weed.
The winter frosts have really helped break the soil up which made digging much easier. I started with the hand fork and before I knew it I was digging up loads of white fleshed roots. I’d seen them when I was turning over the ground in the Autumn. I’d hoped that the coldness of the winter would have killed them off but then I realised what they were. Bindweed roots. Over the winter while planning my future plots I’d looked at weed and pest control, and I remembered reading about the dreaded bindweed and how it will creep and crawl and strangle plants and how it will regrow from the tiniest bit of root left in the ground. The root systems can spread out under the surface up to 6 feet in a single season. The plot I was digging is to be my potato patch so there would be no chance of removing root systems once the potatoes were in. Slowly I started to dig for bindweed.
It was everywhere! It took about 2 hours to dig over half the bed. I spent most of the time on my hands and knees, balanced on the wooden planks conducting a finger tip search of the ground.
Although it was a VERY slow process, by the time I assessed my weeding, I was really encouraged. At last, the plot was looking relatively good and I could actually envision potatoes growing there. Spurred on with this thought I gave my knees a rub down and soldiered on. Another 2 hours later, the job was done.
Here in the North East of England, the last frosts are forecast to be the end of April/early May so I won’t be able to start chitting the potatoes for a few weeks yet but I’m pleased that the bed is dug over and that the bothersome bindweed has pretty much been evicted.
Nature corner is starting to produce some lovely yellow crocus flowers now. In a few weeks I’ll be looking to introduce some aquatic marginal plants to the pond to help attract the pollinators and with a bit of luck some dragon flies too.