Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nae-Dig

Things have moved on a lot since a post last year when I blogged that the riddling would take a few weeks, [laughs hollowly].  Now, it's clear that getting all the stones and glass out by riddle will take at least up until the summer of this year.

So here's how the riddling and the nae-dig work together. I have no choice but to riddle, because the ground is currently dangerously infested with broken glass. A beneficial side effect of getting rid of the glass is that I get rid of all but the smallest stones, thereby improving the till.

But there's another side-effect, crucial in getting me started more quickly on the auld nae-dig. I have the usual suspects as perennial weeds: docks, nettles, ground elder, bindweed and mare's tails. The standard advice on removing these from the ground before starting a no-dig is to cover the ground in heavy plastic for a year.

It would have to cover all 5 beds, about 100m2, and that would be expensive, (£1.29 per metre). But even if money were no object, I wouldn't be for doing that. Firstly, it's what allotment-numpties do: cover the ground in plastic, and then bugger off for a year. That's not gardening.

But the main reason is mare's tails, Equisetum arvense. I only have a few popping up, in a corner of no.4 bed. We had them in the original Pig Sty Avenue, too.

Some near neighbours tried the black plastic routine. The mare's tails loved it. When the black plastic was removed a year later, all the docks and what not, sure enough, were dead, but within a week or two, the entire plot was a carboniferous era forest of E. arvense. Maybe the roots had spread underground in the darkness, or spores had germinated, but that particular plot became ungardenable in perpetuity.

So I'll be riddling the perennial weeds and their roots out. Docks and nettles will be easy, the others less so: ground elder and bindweed roots break up, and propagate from fragments, but I'll get out and burn as much as humanly possible. E. arvense, the roots are too deep to remove, but they're not a big problem: the key is to get as much out as you can before they can issue spores.

As each bed gets cleared, I'll commence sowing cover crops...