Thursday 27 September 2012

Why gardeners dig 4:to rapidly transform an untidy site

To transform a weedy wilderness into a pristine plot

At the start of their course, our horticultural students were allocated a 25 square metre plot. In the first two terms, the plot was used for basic instruction, including digging. In the final term the  ‘plot project’ was for students to do their own thing. The gardens they created were a wonder to behold. The final judging was an unforgettable, special day.
And then nothing! The students returned home and the plots were abandoned for three months. Imagine the mess the next-year students inherited.

If you are going to dig such a plot you had better do it right!
  • Take out a trench at the edge of the plot, one ‘spit’ deep (25cm) and 40cm wide. Place soil removed adjacent to where you will finish.
  • Skim weed and any other vegetation into the bottom of the trench.
  • Generously cover the weed with rotted horse manure.
  • Dig to regain a new trench. Do not take too large ‘bites’ with your spade as you invert each clod.
  • Repeat until the whole plot is turned over.

Woe betide a plot anything less than level!
If you were an Askham Bryan student you would be in big trouble if you…
  • did not insert the spade blade vertically to it’s maximum depth.
  • left any sign whatsoever of green vegetation.
  • failed to almost fill your trench with manure.
  • did not leave your plot completely level.

What does the nodiggardener think about this?
I have fond memories of a time when new friendships were forged. Former students sometimes say that digging their plots were their happiest of times. I also look in horror at the seeding weeds on allotments ‘let go’ in anticipation of an autumn clear up.

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