Breaking new Ground
Breaking new ground at an allotment can often be a daunting task. When you eventually calculate the space and orientation of beds to be dug, the hard work begins.
Before taking a strimmer to the grass or start with a spade thoroughly inspect the entire area. Taking over former plots often produces surprises. Old but still fruiting plants, vegetables or fruit trees. If you’re not sure, ask your neighbor. Better still take a photo and ask us, if we don’t know we will find out!
We have just started breaking new ground to clear an unused space. First step pegging out and marking the new bed. This helps you stay within the boundaries. It also allows you to break it down into manageable daily tasks. The area we are currently clearing is roughly 4m x 2.8m.
Within this area alone there were 4 different types of fruiting plant.
- Plum Tree (easy to identify due to label lol)
- Raspberry Cane
- Rhubarb Crown
With experience, this will become easier to pick up on. If you are new ask for help. It is nice to help people while feeling smart. Also, a great way to introduce yourself to your allotment neighbors. We will be donating the Plum tree due to lack of space. The raspberry and strawberries will be transplanted. I intend to split the rhubarb crown in half to fill a few spaces.
With all of the fruit transplanted the heavy digging can begin. More often than not when we see new plot holders we like to introduce ourselves. There is a trend in our plots for newbies to get the council to scape the entire plot with diggers. This turns the soil lightly without removing any nasties. It looks great. They mark a few rows and plant some lettuce. 6 Weeks later everything looks immaculate then the hardcore weeds start to root again. The plot lays unattended for a year until someone comes and does it again.
By clearing the plot by hand you get to know exactly what is in your ground. Working the ground with a spade, and separating the weeds from the healthy soil by hand is unrivaled. No machinery is able to sort the good from the bad better than human. Rotovators and tillers turn the ground excellently. They also churn weeds and help them multiply. The only way to ensure you remove as many weeds as possible is to do it by hand.
There is no doubt breaking new ground is hard work. If the ground is frozen or wet it is going to be much more difficult. Preparing for a days graft makes the task much more pleasurable. Portable radios or earphones for your phone ease the process. A great podcast, audiobook or your favorite crooner make the hours fly by. Hot drinks are a staple in the plot. Allotments are fueled by tea and coffee.
Working small areas at a time is the best way to accomplish large tasks. You may start to feel like a Disney princess while turning the soil. With the sudden increase in singing birds in your vicinity. They are not there to keep you company but to fast on the worms and bugs you’re unearthing. I try and rebury as many worms as I can. Worms are friends.
Taking time and clearing the plot by hand will reap future rewards. There is no fast track to great soil conditions just hard work.