Hard labour down at the allotment. My predecessor, perhaps in an attempt to improve drainage, had dug all kinds of little trenches, and heaped the spoil from them in particular in a great mound at the foot of the plot. It spans the whole width, so about 30ft, and was about 4 or 5ft across, and 3 or 4ft high. Slowly, slowly, and with great effort, I'm grubbing this out with the Libyan hoe, shovelling it into the barrow, and moving it to fill in the little ditches, and to raise the general level of the left hand bed, which is at some points almost 2ft below the level of the next-door plot.
I've moved almost half of the mound now. If you count 4 barrowfuls to the ton, I've shifted about 5 tons of earth so far. It looks like goodish soil, but sorely lacking in organic matter, (apart from the nettle roots), and virtually no earthworms. The allotment secretary told me we all notice the lack of worms, and there is a fear that we have the dreaded new zealand flatworms, though no-one seems to have seen them. There is a theory that they might congregate under timber, so on hearing that I immediately had two successive conflagrations and burned the huge pile of rotten timber which had built up during my efforts to tidy up.
The exercise I'm getting is addictive. I understand now why people go to gyms, the endorphins are a drug. Better off in the fresh air with a hoe and a shovel and a barrow, in my opinion. Some nights I have to steel myself to NOT go to the allotment, to allow some muscle recovery time. Another week or so should see the second half of the mound levelled. Then I've got to tackle the slightly raised central area with its old-greenhouse foundations.
This will yield a lot of rubble and bricks. The bricks will do for paths - I like the idea of brick paths with thyme planted between the bricks. The rubble will be a foundation for the central path. The existing one is only laid in the bottom half of the plot. It has no foundation, no hardcore. So I'm going to lift that, dig a trench a foot or so down, (the spoil from that will further help raise the level of the left hand bed), and the rubble foundation should act as a french drain and prevent the puddling I get on the lowered left hand bed every time it rains. Bugger the bog garden, as I think I've blogged before.
Finally, there's the top half, which has mysterious mounds and depressions that make no sense at all. That is currently covered with plastic and other sheeting, to stop the thistle down - which is blowing all over Glasgow this weather, - from taking root there. And there's more timber and old bits of chain link fencing to get shifted when the Corporation brings the allotment skip back. All that has to be levelled, and the old shed emptied and demolished. So at some point, maybe two months from now, I'll have an allotment with a central path and two beds nearly thirty yards long, almost level. I'll get a small shed for the tools and plant the beds out with winter field beans to raise the organic content, stop the goodness getting washed away down the new french drain, and give nitrogen.
Then I'll take a couple of months off, get back to practising the piano, before returning in January/February to plant the hedgerow, and build the greenhouse and maybe another shed, dig out the pond, and cover everything else liberally with horseshit. By March, I'll be able to turn it all over once more, and actually start to do some gardening.