The Allotment Diaries: Compost Conundrums

Since planting my seed potatoes in one-third of my allotment bed on 26 April, I have been considering ways to improve the soil quality and open it up from the muddy-clay it is at present to something worthy of growing vegetables in.

My first thought is to spread a bag or two of horticultural grit over the surface and work it in, but that will be hard work, not to mention expensive, and is faintly ridiculous considering the community garden sits on the surface of a disused sand and gravel quarry. However, with all the landscaping going on around the site, and access restricted, most of the loose sand has been covered or moved.

Option Two is to reconsider something I’ve mentioned previously (though when and where is lost in the murky mists of time. If I find it I’ll link it, but it’s not that important). So what is this mysterious gardening trick?

Trench Composting

Instead of putting your kitchen and garden waste in the compost bin (and my two are pretty full at the moment) you dig a trench in the area(s) you wish to improve and bury organic waste in it. You can also dig ‘catholes’ and do the same.

So, that’s my plan for the final third of the allotment bed, the one that will eventually have brassicas planted in it. Instead of throwing kitchen waste into the compost bin, I’ll put it in a bucket, and when that bucket is full, I’ll take it to the allotment and bury it. I’ll add in some cardboard packaging and last year’s dead leaves and let it do its thing. And there’s no problem with planting vegetables on top of it, even it not fully composted.

BUT – I won’t use potato peelings (in case they sprout) or the centres from sweet peppers, tomatoes or squashes; no seeds that might start to germinate where I don’t want them.

Then, as I harvest first the onions and then the potatoes, I’ll continue trench or hole composting in each of those sections until autumn comes. Next year, I’ll plant onions where the potatoes were, potatoes where the brassicas were, and brassicas in the middle section, moving them along one bed the following year (3-year crop rotation).

Some Useful Links

Grow Veg, Natural Spa Supplies, Preparedness Mama, Backyard Garden Lover.

The Allotment Diaries 2021: March

3 March Big Plans

Park in the Past is taking advantage of lockdown to carry out some landscaping work. You can see the difference between these two photos, the left-hand image taken by me in early September 2020, the right-hand image taken by Sarah S, on 27th February.

As I understand it, the plan is that a 3 metre soil bank will be formed along this boundary in the next few weeks, which will shield the allotments from public view, create our own micro-climate, and is where our community orchard will be planted.

I’m pleased to see all my cages are still in place (I knew they couldn’t possibly blow away), but I wish I’d asked Sarah to take a snap of my onions; I’ll have to assume they are still there as I can’t tell from this angle. We are still allowed on site to tend to our vegetable, but apparently the whole area where we park, and access our own footpath, is a sea of mud and riddled with potholes. But I’ve sown some seeds in the greenhouse so I’ll be ready to go as soon as it’s feasible.

28 March Planting the Community Orchard

Imagine mud so thick that it clings to your boots and doubles the size – and weight – of your feet. Mud so wet that if you stand still for more than a few seconds you literally cannot lift a foot out of the hole it’s made.

Imagine that it takes you one hour to dig a hole 18 inches square and 10 inches deep and all the time the rain is lashing down and you’re sinking deeper and deeper into the mud.

Imagine soil with so many stones in it that a spade will only go in an inch or so at a time and you can’t get enough purchase to use either of your feet to push the spade further. Imagine scrabbling on hands and knees to pick out flints. (That’s me, near the back of Picture 4, looking as though I’m about to head-butt a tree stake)

20 fruit trees supplied by Brymbo Heritage Orchard Project – labour provided by several muddy volunteers.

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