|The adventure begins. The first cleared bed.|
One of the adjustments I've had to make in my move to Halifax is to try to consider some wild plants foes instead of friends.
We could have chosen a part-allotment with the soil already tilled, useful plants already growing on it, a green-house and a shed. Or we could have chosen a wacking-great almost-field, full of grasses and willowherb, sorrel, ragwort - and a whole (erstwhile) raised bed solely packed with rib-wort (narrow-leaved plantain).
|I've clipped back the bramble|
but haven't yet had the heart to destroy this willow herb.
Traditional, gardening-book wisdom says go for the green-house and weed-free soil. Our hearts said to go for the field. And being a true believer in hearts - it's the wild field we have.
What I'd have liked best would have been to leave it as we found it. It was beautiful. So for several days I went and stood there half an hour at a time and did nothing but look at it. Drinking it in. Saying 'good-bye' - in the sense that allotments are for carrots, not wild grasses.
Eventually, my friend Esther insisted that one of the important things about allotments is not to annoy our neighbours so the flowering grasses really had to stop being admired and be chopped down instead.
At that point, I was still feeling disoriented. And just as one may be unable to eat when anxious or displaced, I couldn't take photos. So there are no 'befores' and 'afters'.
I would have liked to have photographed the grasses. I knew I would be sad not to have recorded them. But there we are. I wish I'd photographed the soil where they fell - so you could see their masses and masses of seeds. Ditto the sorrel - thousands of seeds turning the soil slightly rusty. Ragwort stems are too stout for garden sheers so they were reprieved for a few days, then we went back with secateurs.
|Ragwort is one of the most beautiful plants ever, yet it has to go!|
It's a wonderful site. The gardeners there are clearly accomplished. There will be a lot to live up to. Fruit bushes drip with raspberries and blackcurrants. There are rows and rows of strawberry plants. But there are flowers too. Some people are even making a feature of the grasses. And there are lots of sheds and greenhouses. And nearly everyone who has a greenhouse or shed has a 'backgarden' behind it - an area hidden off from the rest of the world, where they can simply sit and 'be' which is a wonderful resource in a densely populated area.
I've never seen an allotment site like this one. There's an office and a store and a water pipe which loops up and down the plots and a loo - and really importantly - we are not expected to achieve perfection in a year.
And no way will we.
In the first post on this blog I said I wanted blackberries. And now we have them - growing on a bank on the other side of the boundary wall. And reachable. I've had to clip them back and we'll need to lean over for the fruit when it's ripe but there's no bramble patch to clear. Hurray!
There's no bind weed either. No nettles. The soil is black and fine. The grasses can be dug out without too much trouble.
|Brightly coloured, industrial bread baskets litter the plot. Don't know why!|
None the less, it took about three hours to prepare the first bed. A second one is part-way there. Once that's plant-free we will sow four vegetable crops. The current idea is for onions, kohlrabi, spring greens and chard. If anyone thinks this is a bad choice, please say soon because the first sowing will be in the next few days.
A previous allotmenteer created slightly-raised beds over about a third of the plot so that's where we are making a start, digging out wild-plants on alternate beds and chucking them onto the other alternating beds so the cut down grasses and the plants we'd prefer not to be growing there will begin to suffocate, making it easier to dig them out and be replaced with green manure later. (Gardening is disgustingly destructive.) There is no overall plan yet but this seems a good way to start. There are loads of objects to clear - masses of industrial bread baskets and other 'containers' and 'troughs' so each 'session' is divided in un-equal parts between gathering rubbish, cutting down grasses and, sadly, pulling out wild plants so we can grow food instead.
When it's cool and quiet and slightly drizzly, it's a lovely place to work. Sad and exciting. Can't have all joy. I saw a toad. Three days later I saw it dead.