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).


Sue Garrett said...

I'll send Martyn to read this as we are going to experiment with green manure next year!

donna said...

'Clarty', 'glaur', 'dubs'....I'm always learning something from your blog.

Would love to find some escapee daffs blooming in my yard. Too early, only a few have even popped out of the ground.

Your last photo should be in the dictionary next to the word clarty.

Hope all is well with you Linda.

Mark Willis said...

Linda, get on and sow / plant something! Green manure and digging is all very well, but you'll feel a lot better once something edible is growing! :-)

Linda said...

Sue, it could just be my soil, Sue, or perhaps the shorter Scottish growing season. But I'm not tempted by alfafa again.

Linda said...

Hi Donna, people might look at you strangely in your neck of the woods if you come out with these good Scots words!
It has been a very early year for daffodils - too early, almost.

Martin and Amy said...

We're going green (manure wise) this year on the allotment when the time comes.

A start is better than no start, well done!


Rainy Day Gardener said...

Linda, I love it when you explain Scottish words! The ground was clarty when I was digging this past weekend too. I think it's cool that you are trying out different cover crops. I'll be keen to hear more about this green manure business next year. Cheers, Jenni

LoriAngela said...

Love your digging vocabulary. I will share it with my Mom who is always talking about "tilth".

Peggy said...

Hi Linda, the first day back is always the hardest, looking at all that unbroken ground. We had mixed results with our first experiment with green manures htis winter also. You drew my attention to something which I did not realise until reading your post, 2 beds with very sparse green manure are virtually weed free?!

Buck said...

My ground is still mostly frozen. The crocus have bloomed but the daffodils have only just pushed a bit of green up. Still, that's quite early for these parts!

Andrea said...

Clarty what a great word!have to remember that one.To save yourself all that digging could you lay down some black plastic or newspapers to kill of the grass?

Kelli said...

Looks like alot of digging ahead of you! I've got a fair bit of digging to do as well. April's task.