Monday, September 05, 2016

Proper Gardening: Digging It

I had thought I was going to get away without digging the tattie patch over. Just throw on the winter field beans and a layer of oomska, and leave it alone until next year... But as I tidied up, barrowing away the potatoes' aerial parts for compost, I saw that it was compacted from all the walking on it as I harvested the spuds. Besides, there were still a few potato stragglers in the ground.

So I got back to digging for the first time in 6 months or so, and I was soon in a lather with the unaccustomed exercise. The methodology: dig back three rough rows along the bed, that's about a yard, sow generously with the field beans, and then throw on a barrowfull of oomska - so that's one barrow of it to about 4sq yards - 2 or 3 ins deep. The field beans should punch their way through that no problem, the garden thugs that they are.

I was delighted to find that the oomska pile's population of brandling worms, Eisenia fetitda, has multiplied whilst it's been standing there since last March. (Which reminds me, I need to put a few shovelfuls of it onto the compost heap.)  And although it was bloomin' hard work, I was glad to be able to get some real allotment exercise again. Last night after giving the dogs their last walk before bedtime, I could barely climb the stairs to the flat, but had all the mental benefits of the endorphins that exercise releases.

Got about 2/5 of that bed done, looking forward to getting it finished later this week.

There's something worrying me on the other side of the path, though: most of the Mid and North West beds are planted with phacelia, which is thriving along a strip about a yard wide at the edge of the path. But in the rest of the bed it's giving up the ghost, and flopping over before going to seed. Which is fine as it's done it's job of summer weed suppression and feeding pollinators, but I wonder why it's dying back this early when I know this plant will happily flower until the first frosts and beyond.

The most likely culprit is water logging, and maybe I haven't quite cured the plot's drainage problems just yet. I'll leave it all alone for another month or two: even the dying plants are crowded with all kinds of insects, especially honey and bumble bees. And I spotted an incredibly fat frog there yesterday.

Phacelia is so shallow rooted it can be pulled out with the rake. And maybe the shallow roots are the problem, if it's surface water that's slow to drain away?  Mind, this central area of these beds hasn't been dug over since I finished levelling it back in May. So I will dig it over late autumn, and sow forage rye with more oomska. The rye's long roots might help. I'll need to keep an eye on it as the rain levels increase over the winter.