Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A lot of digging to get ready for no-digging


I know photos of, basically, the ground, don't show much but let me take you through it. To the right is the gate and the path. I've put up a couple of sheets of tin as edging, (involved digging a narrow trench way down into the clay, bloody hard work). I did that because the path was a little low, and the bed was in danger of spilling out onto it.

In the centre of the photo is riddled earth, from the 1st section (approx 7x7sq feet), but now spread across the 1st & 2nd sections, (so that's about 7x13sq feet).  The earth from section 1, by the dead shrubs at the top of the photo, contained a lot of industrial slag or clinker. The second section, nearer the central path, (which is the foreground of the photo), was mostly compacted clay topsoil.

"Clay topsoil" is the greenish stuff which I've found in the largely uncultivated areas of the plot, for example under the path, and here under the old shed. It's topsoil clay to distinguish it from the real heavy, orange stuff in the subsoil. It will make a good clay loam in due course with the tender loving care it's going to get.

Just out of sight to the left is a heap of unriddled earth from section 2, which I'll riddle and barrow up to the tin edging. There was hitherto a slight slope running left to right at this part of the plot, which I'm planning to correct: there should be slight incline running right to left, down in the direction of the pond.

I'll be piling riddled earth up to the right to keep the floor of this spit-deep trench clear on the left. That will enable me, now that I've made a start across the width of the bed, to work my way down the bed, slicing off about 10ins from the edge of the trench, shovelling it off the clay floor, riddling it and barrowing it across to the heap of riddled earth to the right, which will, as it were, follow me down as it fills up.

It's not quite double digging or bastard-trenching, but the principle is the same. It means the subsoil floor of the trench will be compacted somewhat as I walk on it, so I'll be planting field beans for a few successive winters to punch down into it with their long roots.

The topsoil seems pretty lifeless. No worms, though Mrs Robinson is able to find grubs of some insects there. It's paradoxical, I know, to destroy any kind of soil structure there might be prior to beginning a no-dig regime. But I'm breaking eggs to make an omelette.

There is no other way, that I can think of, to get rid of all the bloody broken glass. This way I get the glass out, but also all the stones (bigger than about 1/2in³) and all the perennial weeds. Major surgery.