Hedging Your Best


Asked the committee (three of ‘em wandering around, a little sheepishly with a clip board and puzzled expressions … inspection time I guess) for their considered, committee advice about the hedge that runs next to our plot and, because of seriously ground breaking (literally) work by fencing contractors putting up the concrete section and lapped fence panels is in danger of collapsing and causing upset all around.

Honestly I thought they might be a little more helpful; suggest a work party to help sort the whole thing out and generate a bit of community spirit along the way. They looked at each other (probably wondering who should do the actual speaking) then tutted, raised eyebrows, scratched their heads and shook them slowly from side to side.

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(The left hand photo shows the view (before the day’s work began) from the path. The lapped fencing at the end was installed by the guy who lives in the house next to our plot. The Sterling board on the edge of the photo is the temporary, removable “front wall” of our compost bins. The right hand photo shows the amount of ground – and hedge – removed in order  to install the fencing. This view is from the plot looking up the boundary.)

“See what you mean, my mate …” said the first.

“Think it might be the best thing to take it out, like …”

“You need to take the roots and stuff out and dig the soil bank down till it is level…”

The words “you” and “need” were not lost on me. So, I have been hacking and puling, uprooting and cursing a bit each week. Out has come a stubborn elder, two mock oranges on the edge of flowering, a hawthorn with twisted roots the girth of an American wrestler’s thighs. In their stead I have planted, at the new, lower level, damson and cuttings of the mock orange (I love the scent that rises from t hose big paper-white blossoms).  Leaving just the last privet.

Well actually not the last in the hedgerow, but the last one that, given the attitude of the committee is my responsibility. It straddles the end of the path, reaching the site boundary. My plot to the left, the Captain’s to the right. Although rumour has it that the captain will be leaving when he has sold his powerful and ancient tilling machine.

Yesterday we were up on the plot. My wife adding Perlka to the patch where we will plant the cabbages (Kilaton and Greyhound) and cauliflower.  She also planted a double row of peas. The potatoes are coming up and radish too. The broad beans blooming in the warmth.

Meanwhile Little Dee, another committee member had been down and added his own – definitely useful  – advice, and an offer to help.

I split myself between two jobs: emptying the compost bin and filling the beds that will soon be occupied by courgettes and pumpkins … and taking out that privet. Both necessary and I set myself the target of completing both. The compost bin needs some repair once the middle section is empty –and the section e are filling at the moment is steaming hot but with little room to keep adding material.

Privet has fibrous roots and is not seriously challenging to get from the ground, especially when you can –as I could – undermine it. It was complicated by the fact that stems have grown through the remnants of an old- chicken wire fence, but spade, crow bar, loppers and tin snips eventually got used to good effect. .. and a cup of tea with Mr and Mrs Molineux (the plot next door helped a lot, thanks people!)

Surplus soil, with manifold pebbles and tiles has been spread on the plots. It is completely dry, sandy (there is literally a sand quarry next to the site) and, having been populated by the roots of a hedge for at least fifty years presumably completely lacking in nutrients.

The brash will be used for pea sticks and the remainder burned – as soon as a dry Friday and me not working coincide.

Today I planted a couple of surplus buddleia bushes from home (where they seed like weeds) in the gap.

The view and aspect of the allotment are now completely different. We have access behind our shed from the main path now and can turn the newly available space in to a useful store for all the bits and pieces we hoard “until they come in useful”.

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(At least I hope it looks different – at least, my aching muscles tell me it ought to do. Further collapse into the fence panels is now prevented by the metal sheeting (Little Dee’s advice) installed. Knew that old metal panelling would be useful one day :-D)

It is a genuine shame that the hedge, so valuable as, at least a wildlife corridor, and with I am sure historic value is no more. But when the plants I have put in take hold there will be some attempt at recreating it. And we have, incidentally opened up a new access to the end plot and created more useful storage space. Meanwhile (another post perhaps?) the items that were unearthed are fascinating and worthy of wet-day investigation.


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