Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Glad Tidings of Comfrey and Spoil

EdD reading this morning, getting to grips with administration of the Life in the UK test, for Scotland. But as today looks like being a small island of not-quite-raining in an otherwise washed out week, I'm getting to the allotment this afternoon. 

I've got to replant the comfrey. I planted it near the Old Greenhouse back in July, 12 plants which I'd got from 2 or 3 tubers from the old allotment near the original Pig Sty Avenue.  I was worried I’d planted them too deeply, but needn’t have. They grew like mad. Sunday, I got a sackful of leaves for next years tomato feed, which I put in a sack in an auld tin bin of water. Then I dug up the plants, each one of them now a massive set of tubers. I threw them onto the spoil heap from the pond. 

I’ve only got one truly cultivatable bit of ground, by the fence in the north east bed, the patch I dug dozens of bricks out from a few weeks ago. It’s more or less at the right level, and well draining. So I’ll put the comfrey in there today. Together with some fruit bushes I’ve got to move, and a rhubarb plant I’ve rescued (from a bucket, under a tarp, at the southern end: it had found a way around the tarp to get to the sunshine, and a plant that determined deserves another chance. According to The Old Man, you should move rhubarb plants every few years anyway). So I’ll put them all in this piece of ground, even if it’s likely just a temporary home, pending resolution of drainage.

And I’ve got a big spoil heap, earth from starting on The Pond excavations. It wants shifting, maybe onto the North West bed, where even the winter field beans are struggling to grow because of poor drainage. Or if that’s too boggy to get the barrow on, then onto the North East bed. In any case, I need to clear the heap because it’s leaning precipitously over the pond excavations. 

If there’s still time after that, I’ll go back to digging out the pond area. Here’s the methodology as it appears after Sunday. The old path I cleared was about 1ft down from the current surface. First, I’m going to clear the whole Old Greenhouse area to that level, about 150ft³ of earth. And then the same again to get to the top of the clay subsoil. All of this will be barrowed and raked onto the N beds to level them - that is, to take the dip out of the middle, and raise the levels about 6in all over - maybe a little more. 

THEN I can start to excavate the actual pond, a gentle curve down to about 3ft in the middle. The spoil will be clay and pebbles. For now, I’m thinking, I need to spread that across the beds too. Clay has plenty of nutrients, and will crumble when it gets dry. So it should, overtime, with plenty of horse-shit, break down nicely into the topsoil. 

Still with me?  Once the pond is there, I can lift the Northern end of the path, and dig a trench along its line. I’ll leave that a couple of weeks, and watch to make sure that the rain is soaking down off the beds, into the trench, and then flowing down into the pond. I might need to adjust the gradient if any water is collecting along the trench. Then I can refill the trench with bricks, well spaced at the foot of the trench to allow the water to continue draining down into the pond. The rest of the trench will be filled with more bricks, (I’m not short of bricks) and then topped with the the paving slabs, about 6-9ins higher than it is now, a little higher than the, by then, raised beds. 

All of which needs to be done before next year’s planting season. Everything else, hedgerow, sheds, poly-tunnel, clearing the midden, must wait for it. I just can’t garden on the waterlogged north end as it is. Draining the southern end, and then all of its other structural changes, must also wait, but will get done during the course of next summer. 

Bulrushes will look really cool around the pond margins, one day, maybe 8ft tall...