Thursday, 5 May 2011

Grow your soil...

I love my allotment. Well I love what we’ve done to it. But we have an ongoing problem. I think I’ve mentioned before that the soil we have inherited is poor, very, very poor. When we were first introduced to plot 7, Marina, our lovely site manager, gently broke it to us that our little corner had been used as a dumping area- not just for fly tippers and other allotment holders but for the council. Apparently a load of rubble destined for the bike jumps down the road was deemed too unsafe for cyclists, so the council arranged for it to be dumped- on our plot. Now obviously it is not just my little square which has been affected by this, but as we were the last in, I’d say we’ve got it worst.

Courgettes are not normally rockery plants...

When we first arrived we thought that moving the enormous concrete blocks and piles of old metal were the worst of our problems, these massive objects were actually the easiest to deal with. After me, the boyf and the dad spent two long weekends wheeling on average 40 wheelbarrow loads of rocks a day off the plot, we gave up- if we carried on we would have been left with a hole- the plot is rocks, the ground is gravel...we had to build up.
We essentially spent the whole winter scavenging wood and building raised beds and last weekend, finally, every bed was built. The next step was filling not with veg, that bit is dead easy...but with soil. We have three massive compost heaps which are heaving with offerings from a friends cafe, the chickens bottoms and all the grass cuttings and odds and ends from the boyfs gardening round, we also have a huge leaf bin in our plot and a communal one for everyone to chip into. But compost is a slow process and as yet nothing from our bins is ready. So the soil remains dust and rock. We’ve planted into it, but nothing seems to be happening.

This weekend we had to part with some cash to sort this situation out, for this summer at least. We bought 12 bags of (peat free) compost from a local garden centre, setting us back about £40 but we decided it was a necessary evil. The soil would not produce anything without it.
We’ve also hacked back the enormous comfrey which was given to us by the boyfs dad as a mere seedling. Some we’re drying, some we’re turning into liquid feed and what’s left has gone straight into the beds.

The boy even composts in rows...

Things look healthier already and things are starting to grow. Luckily we managed to protect everything from the sudden frost which decimated so many of our neighbours produce on Tuesday night. Looking around the site, it seems that potatoes have taken the biggest battering, with piles of black mush where healthy plants once where.
I vow to spend this winter green manuring, composting and generally feeding the soil. I can’t have another growing season where I live in fear that every time the wind blows the dust which makes up my plot will be gone...
They’re high maintenance these allotments! Between them and the chickens and that little old job fella, I haven’t got any time for anything else! Love it though...

1 comment:

  1. You should be so proud of yourselves though, how stunning it's turned out to be but I understand the expense! Just think next year you won't have any of these problems and will be able to get growing straight away!
    We've just bought 3 ton bags of topsoil from the builders merchants to fill our raised beds as our plot wasn't as bad as yours but we needed a quick fix for this year so built up too.
    Wishing you all the luck in the world with your, now lovely, plot!