Thursday, 28 April 2011

Please let it rain soon!

The current dry weather conditions are playing havoc with our plans at Bressingham (the old allotment) In February I couldn't dig because the soil is so clay-y I couldn't stand up straight on it, pushing on a spade merely propelled me backwards through the slip. I missed the nanosecond when the weather dried up and the soil was in peak digging condition and, minutes later, it had dried out and set so rock hard that even jumping two footed onto the spade won't drive it into the ground.

My plan was to dig up the grassed area where the kids play, give them horsetail corner for playing instead, and transfer the strawberries to the rather more fecund original play area. Adam complained that digging up the turf in the compacted, played on soil, was heavy going so we put Roundup down thinking dead grass would be easier to grub up than living. By the time the Roundup had worked, the soil had set rock hard so we decided to wait for rain before we continued digging.

We waited, and waited and waited .......

8 weeks later we've only had one small shower of rain. The play area is still only half dug, the strawberries are snug in their original home and are now flowering determinedly, the broad bean seeds have died and the purple sprouting broccoli is running to seed and needs digging up but everything is locked into the concrete soil.

By contrast, the soil at the new allotment on Louie's Lane is a joy. It's like fine sand, free draining and easily heaped over the potatoes (the Ulster Sceptre are doing fine), seed drills are drawn in the blink of an eye (rather than seeds slipping down between huge cobbles) but walking over it is hard on the calves (my legs, there are no baby cows there) but other than that it's allotmenteering heaven.

The 2011 season is beginning in earnest now as my seedlings are slowly emerging from their coldframe home and being planted out in the big wide world of the allotment. The next few weeks will be hard work as I mollycoddle them into life but once they've got a toehold I should find out if my split site strategy will work and I actually have the resources to manage 2 allotments - oh and not forgetting the Diss Community Farm pig rearing project!


  1. well at least you have some decent soil to work with...we have clay soil in a lot of areas around us but most of the plot after 4 years of working is now quite free digging and if I make sure I get it well dug at the end of and beginning of the season i can usually keep on top of it...I'm afraid to tell you that hard work and working the soil is the only way to improve it!!

  2. To be fair, it does seem to have improved slightly from last year but there's still a long way to go! Good to know there's light at the end of the tunnel though.

  3. Hope you have a good downpour really soon!
    Blimey, two allotments? I think I'd struggle to share one!
    Any chance of getting some spent mushroom compost locally? We used to have a grower in the area and buying it direct was half the price - it'd do your clay soil a power of good.

  4. Oh that's a good idea, I have seen an ad locally I may have a look. Thanks!

  5. Ugh! You mentioned horsetails!! The bane of allotmenteers' lives!! I'm sure your seedlings will thrive and provide you with lots of yummy veg!

  6. "The bane of allotmenteers' lives!!" too true! Our site is infested, some plots look like they're covered in grass but it's horsetail. We only have a small corner that's infested but nothing will grow there which is why we've given it to the kids as their play area.

  7. It rained! We had rain overnight! Not enough though - we'll need a good soak over a day or two to soften the soil I think.