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Archive for March, 2007

Day 3: Saturday 3rd March, 2007

Heavy, heavy rain on the evening of Friday 2nd March meant that digging further earth was almost impossible yesterday. The ground resembled porridge with glue in it. We therefore looked at this as an opportunity to clear the brambles and Japanese knotweed from the back of the site….and then burn it!

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia Japonica) was apparently fashionable in Victorian times and people purchased it as an ornamental plant. It is an impressive thing, it grows very tall and partially resembles bambo and will also flower in late season. However, it took hold all over the UK and is now something that needs to be cut back and controlled. For further information on the control of Japanese Knotweed read this.

Brambles (Rubus Fruticosus) on the other hand, are wonderful. They are equally voracious, but at least they provide berries…and we will need wild berries later in the season to distract birds from our crops. If the birds don’t get there first we’ll get blackberries.. just like these:

Chopping down the knotweed was easy – it’s very brittle. Burning it is even easier – it’s amazingly dry. Chopping down the brambles was not so easy. It’s thorny and strong. It’s also less easy to burn.

Still, we cleared the back of the patch.

(NB: Photos were taken on a mobile phone so the quality isn’t great)

 

It was also a beautiful day.

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Day 2: Sunday 25th February, 2007

The previous allotment holder had placed old carpets over sections towards the back of the plot. We thought this would be a good place to start as the carprets would have stopped much of the growth in the ground they covered. Moving the carpets proved tricky since they were completely soaked and had also become quite attached to the roots growing underneath. If you’ve ever moved a wet carpet then you will empathise.

After half an hour or so we had managed to separate one piece approximately 3 x 4 metres in size and had slowly dragged it to the middle of the plot where it now sits. We decided that we’ll wait for a few days of sunshine before we try to move the rest.

We began to dig….

As we turned over the ground we began to encounter large clusters of Mares Tail roots. The only way to deal with this bugger is to pull it out of the ground gently and make sure you leave nothing behind – not even a tiny strand. Over the course of digging out a patch as small as a square foot we found hundreds of the things

Over the course of about 4 hours we dug out an area about the size of a double bed. The area will need to be dug over again in the next few weeks in order to ensure that all the Mare’s Tail is gone. Before we plant anything (in late March / early April) the area will need to be dug over a third time. The area dug out probably represents about 1/8 of the total plot.

We also started something that what will become very big in due course: The Mare’s Tail pile.

The weather was hit and miss and we got caught in two horrendous downpours. After seeing the approach of a third black cloud we decided to call it a day before getting drenched for a third time. 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Day 1: Saturday 24th February, 2007 

We were due to meet Allotment Secretary Martin Reeve at the Clubhouse at 11.30am on Saturday 24th. We were late but he forgave us and decided to still gave us the plot.

Here is what the plot looked like.

Martin had previously told us that the plot was riddled with Mare’s Tail weed. We had experienced this weed before on a previous plot. It grows quickly and everywhere. Rotatvating the ground will only compound the problem as the Mare’s Tail roots will be chopped up into tiny pieces and simply create more plants than you started with. The only solution is to dig the earth and pull out the Mare’s Tail plants whole, being careful not to snap the roots and leave a new plant growing in the earth. To be blunt, it’s a pain in the arse. 

This is Mares Tail (Hippuris Vulgaris) and is “Public Enemy Number 1” according to www.allotment.org.uk. We do not disagree. It does, however, have a medicinal use as a vulnerary – it will stop external and internal bleeding, even curing ulcers. Medicinal uses or not – it’s coming out of plot 171 before we plant anything.

Before we could begin work we needed to head to the shops to get ourselves a key cut and to purchase tools, gardening gloves and also a lock for our shed.

In the key-cutting shop we found a 50p Bargain Box….

…and it contained a lock! (We also “found” a pair of gardening gloves on a wall on the way back) Things were looking up.

After a quick trip to Homebase and £25 later, we were the proud owners of brand new gardening forks.

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