Slow painting

Sunday 11 March 2012

Almost digging

A very gentle start to the Spring dig last week.  I went to the plot with the week's kitchen waste, and to pull a couple of leeks for a cheese and onion bread pudding (Cranks recipe).  I loved it - the rest of the family was lukewarm about it.  All the more for me!

Because we've been so tight for time the thought of the backlog of tidying up at the plot has been nagging at me, and so I thought I'd dip a toe in the water, or fork in the soil, and at least make a start.   You can see the paltry results above.  The plan for this winter was to have a no-dig, or minimum dig start to Spring, by sowing all bare ground with green manure.  It's been a very mixed experience.  

Below, the wilted-down phacelia.  This has been a success again after a trial last year.  For most of the winter it's stood green and robust, only recently giving way to frost.  But it still covers the ground and inhibits most of the weeds. 

Grazing rye, of which I had high hopes, has been literally patchy.  This is the patch.  Another whole bed sown twice with rye failed to come through at all.  Interestingly, although the rye hasn't come through, neither has much in the way of weeds.  

At the front of the photo below you'll see the first shoots of garlic.  Although we've had hardly any snow, there have been some good frosts, so hopefully the garlic will have got the cold it needs to form bulbs. 

The lighter straggly stuff below is what remains of the white mustard.  It was useful to mask weeds in the most difficult bit of the plot - under sycamore trees, with shade from mid afternoon onwards in summer, a buffer zone between the blackcurrant bushes and the main access road, and prone to infestation by creeping buttercup.  I've tried daffodils, dahlias as a summer display, a wildflower mix, and am thinking of putting spinach here this summer.  The soil is in good heart, rich in leafmould.  Some escapee daffodils meantime are cheering up the rather desolate remains of the mustard.

As for this bed - this is the site of the complete failure of the alfalfa.  Unlike the rye, the alfalfa's failure to germinate seems to have encouraged a mat of lawn-like grass.  This is going to make for painstaking digging.

In the event I didn't dig long.  The ground was very heavy - 'clarty' is the Scots word that springs to mind.  A sticky, heavy consistency.  Not to be confused with 'glaur' (wet, squelchy mud), or 'dubs' (drier, forming clods, and often marking the passage of a tractor along a tarmac road).