All it needs is leveling…

10 May

If ever there was a careless throw away phrase not to use about an allotment perhaps ‘all it needs is leveling’ would be it. I thought yesterday was the day of hard graft, the day when I broke the back of getting our herb garden, as it might one day be, ready for covering and planting but no. It didn’t quite work like that.

I spent last night flicking through a book Ken’s work mates had got him for his birthday present – ‘The practical allotment’. You couldn’t buy a better book because it’s basically outdoors DIY with ambitious projects such as fixing a solar panel to your shed. As I tried to reign him in with muttered platitudes of maybe next year I did notice a few handy tips hidden in a book of big projects. Tips like using old newspaper for mulch.

I of course then adapted this tip thinking I could perhaps fill all the gaps in herb garden with scrunched up bits of newspaper to level it off. Ken looked dubious, he knows one of my botchy plans when he sees it. Undeterred this morning I went with a bag of old newspapers prepared to do battle and get leveling because this is, after all, the ‘by any means possible’ school of gardening.

There was the usual stuff to do when I arrived – watering, looking for propagator lids that have blown away in the strong winds. My bird scarers had also vanished in the wind, I realised whenever I leave the place I don’t know what I will come back to. As a plot neighbour told me brassicas (gardeners speak for broccoli et al) attract birds I set about replacing them straight away.

bird scarer

Tin foil dishes on canes to (hopefully) scare off birds.

Once I started tackling herb garden I soon realised short of having about three tons of newspapers this was not the magic solution I hoped for. There was no avoiding the dutch hoe, the big digging fork, the small hand fork and my stinking rubber gloves today.

I watered the ground again, chiseled and forked and hoe’d and basically spent two hours trying to break up the huge clay like clods from yesterday and make the ground  look vaguely flat. I don’t get it, the people next door on all sides have earth that looks like it has been ironed, sitting perfectly flat under membrane waiting to be used. How do they do it?

herb garden covered

Herb garden covered but still bumpy!

I got it as flat as I could in the allotted time and then tried my filling-the-gaps- with-newspaper experiment before covering the whole thing with membrane.  I walked across it to test out it’s flatness and nearly tumbled over, it was still potted with holes and lumps. All that effort and this tiny corner of our plot is still uneven.

I headed back home slightly dejected and passed an elderly man serenely pushing a petrol rotavator, sorting out and leveling a huge strip of land in what looked like an effortless flourish. He’d probably finished the whole strip before I even got home. So that’s how they all do it then – rotavators. Slightly torn between hiring one immediately or indignantly shouting ‘light weights’ at the entire allotment community!




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