Archive for October, 2012

October Digging.


Great to get (and shift) the twenty something barrows of well-rotted farmyard manure from the central roadway to the plot last night, and got it all well piled where I plan to use it as a top dressing; let the worms drag it down rather than put it into trenches. But the soil needs a digging over first, in my opinion. This part of the plot grew our potatoes this year and needs simple spade work to level it all out: no matter how hard I try (and I don’t really) the ground is really irregular after I have harvested the potato crop.  

Fine autumn morning, lovely sunlight through the raspberry canes (autumn variety still producing very tasty berries) and grapevines. There is a border of French marigolds in a neighbouring plot with a great show of blooms. In the low level sunlight this morning the bed looked like a row of cooling embers, or lava from some exotic volcano. The digging I find therapeutic, it has a steady rhythm and allows the mind to roam, but come back every now and then to take up the potatoes that got missed first time round (some surprisingly large and, frankly unmissable!).

The soil structure looks good, fewer stones are appearing – we have made an effort over the past year to remove the larger ones, putting them in or around the two wildlife ponds. Some wood chips remain in their original form and there are bits of sweet wrappers (guilty) coming to the surface.

But so many earthworms. Very pleasing indeed. I hope a sign that we are managing the soil well, in as near to organic fashion as we can manage. We add our own compost rotted down from kitchen scraps, shredded paper, stable manure and grass cuttings each year and added limed this spring. I time my leaning-on-the spade breaks by worm activity, saying to myself: “I will carry on digging when that worm has disappeared from view.” Then watch the strong, bulldozer efforts of the creature, wondering how much I disturbed it. Did I smash it’s home?

Because I am not sure whether worms have permanent burrows or are constantly on patrol below the ground. In fact, while I know some things about them I suddenly realise I would like to know so many more. I know certain types (brandling or tiger worms) thrive in manure/compost and are not the same as the magnificently-sized specimens in this deeper earth. I marvel at their “ploughs of the earth” perseverance and do not underestimate their importance. The ones in the autumn lawn seem to have permanent burrows, rather than continually pushing through the soil on an endless quest, and drag fallen leaves into their “homes” each night. To eat? Is this correct? Do they behave in the same fashion all year round? Have territories?

Back later, have to look on the internet.

4th October, 2012



Thing is: titles can be misleading.
See, Dave’s wheelbarrow isn’t always a wheelbarrow (OK, OK sometimes it is, but it doesn’t have to be, see?). No, sometimes it’s a car boot, or a sun faded supermarket plastic carrier bag, or …

… and Dave isn’t necessarily the same person … and his, or – and why not, her – name isn’t necessarily Dave, though the original one was. Hope you’re keeping up with this; only I’m trying to type quickly (never a good idea I am a two forefinger-only typist) because I’ve agreed to let a tractor driver in to deliver some year old manure, for winter digging, at a very reasonable rate.
(Just struck me that the wheelbarrow could be a tractor, but that is rather unlikely.)
For example the Dave in this episode always takes his wheel barrow home from the plot, and regularly brings it back, often (indeed usually) loaded with some magical load. We were waiting on Sunday for a coach to take us to an autumn Garden Show (which was fantastic, but that may be the stuff of  a different blog) when Dave appeared. Polite as always and stopped for a chat (the stuff of life on allotments) when another plotholder sidled over, surreptitiously opened the top of one of the bags in the barrow and sneaked a look in. I say sneaked, but Dave and I both observed him doing it.
Dave cocked his head, quietly: “Nosy so-and- so,” he said, “ he can’t stop himself can he? Always got to have his nose in something that’s none of his business eh?”
But he opens the bag to show me and I feel honoured; “just some soot,” he explains, “…nearly used up all the last lot. So I’ll put this one somewhere to weather. It’s got to weather because it’ll “burn” the plants if I put it on ‘em now. But in a year, six months even, it’ll be calmed down.”
“Good for keeping slugs away,” he winks. This has been a devil of a year for vegetable gardeners; slugs have reached Biblical plague sizes and populations and assaulted produce like something from a B movie.
I nodded, knowledgably, having just nabbed the soot from my mother’s chimney sweep, who looked totally flummoxed that anyone would ask for it … but I, sort of, remember my grandfather telling me it was, eventually good for the garden.
In the other bag, Dave had some wood ash which he was simply going to add to the soil by sprinkling it randomly on the surface. Wood ash is beneficial, I took note.
(Meanwhile I am somewhat proud of myself. I have been up to the allotment, met the guy with the manure (cow, approximately one year old, straw not contaminated: looks beautiful). He was driving a Land Rover with two- ton (?) trailer. Now Dave’s wheelbarrow could definitely be a Land Rover.)

3rd October, 2012.

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