Why we used a mini digger

Richard using a mini digger to turn the soil on our allotment

Having cut down and burned the shrubs, brambles, small trees, grass and other weeds, our thoughts turned to turning our soil.

We had already decided that our approach to getting our plot ready to grow would be to:

  • spray the existing weeds with a glyphosate-based weedkiller (which we have done)
  • dig or rotavate the soil to aerate it
  • remove some weed roots by hand cultivating
  • let any remaining weeds in the soil grow up so that we can spray them again
  • and finally, once the current crop of weeds have died off, cover the soil with a geo textile, perhaps mypex.

It means that we can’t be organic while we’re clearing the plot, but it is something we want to work towards. We inherited many pernicious weeds, some  of which (such as couch grass and bindweed) can grow from the tiniest fragment of plant material left in the soil. We’re going to be tackling these weeds for some years to come. But if we’re going to stand a chance of getting on top of the problem, we need some chemical help at this stage.

Some people caution against rotavating a weed-infested plot because it chops into weed roots and could spread the problem.  Elisa (The Secret Garden), who has worked so hard with us to get the plot to where we are now, had offered to hand dig it. It was a generous offer but we felt we would be asking too much if we said yes.

We were pondering the problem, when Richard of Anderson Landscapes suggested using a mini digger. It might seem a bit over the top for turning the soil but it would allow us to tackle several other problems at the same time.

We’d be able to move some of the banked up soil at the shed-end of the plot to create raised beds. We could use it to demolish the old shed and dig out the base that the shed was sitting on. And we could use it to remove the massive blocks on concrete that Rodney had been bravely trying to dig out.

So, that is what we did.

In the video below, you’ll see that even the mini digger struggled with some of the concrete!

And here is our first raised bed – made with one tonne bags donated by Richard. The bags were filled with material from the previous tenant’s old compost heaps. Hopefully, it will look more attractive filled with plants – we’re considering using them to grow pumpkins this year.

 

Building a raised bed using one tonne builders' bags

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Mystery post – solved!


We were very fortunate on our visit to our plot today inthat we met one of our neighbours, Julia. She has been an allotment holder at that site for 30 years and was very welcoming.

She confirmed that our plot has not been cultivated for about four years and was also able to tell us what the post was – the base of a swing.

Apparently, the swing was for the former plot holder’s grandchildren.it had an arm coming out and the swing went round the base.

Who’d have guessed?

In other news, the work that Rodney (The Secret Garden) carried out on the path is paying off. Thanks to his efforts to cut into neglected banks, and even out the surface, accessing our plot has become less terrifying.

We also met another neighbour, who dropped by to check on progress:

More on the mystery posts

A picture of the excavation of the wooden post embedded in concrete

While assessing the shed, we were able to take a few more shots of the mystery post that we’re trying to remove from the allotment.

As previously noted, the three wooden posts are held together with a coach bolt at the top and embedded in concrete at the bottom. There are no other screw holes or marks of anything being fixed to the posts.

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There is also a smaller post slightly nearer to the fence, and the two of them are at about a 45 degree angle to the fence. Although at this stage of excavation, it doesn’t look like the two posts are connected, it’s hard to believe they don’t have anything to do with each other.

Here’s a view of the smaller post:

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We’d like to thank Rodney from The Secret Garden, for the fantastic job he’s done so far on digging the larger post out. Despite going down a couple of feet, there is no sign of being able to move the post. So, the next plan is likely to involve hitting it hard with a very large hammer!

Immovable objects and a rotten shed

At this stage, we’ve got all the roots out and have made two piles of material which we are hoping to burn – the ash will be good for the soil.

Elisa and Rodney, from The Secret Garden,  arrived with a good collection of tools. Here’s a selection of their forks!

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Rodney attacked the larger of the mystery concrete posts. You can see in the film that he’s dug a couple of feet down all the way around it, and still it refuses to move!

From what we have uncovered so far, there are three layers of concrete (there may be more underneath that). So, it looks like someone has put concrete down, let it dry, put another layer of concrete down, let that dry, then put a final layer of concrete down and sunk the posts into it. The posts themselves are very solid looking pieces of wood held together with a substantial bolt.

There are no obvious signs of something being attached to the posts – no other bolt holes, etc. There is also another a smaller concrete post about a metre nearer to the fence.

What on earth the posts were or why someone put them there, we have no idea.

We have also started pulling the ivy off the shed. It looks homemade rather than being a bought shed and there are windows all the way round. So, someone has obviously been growing something in it, or at least planned to.

But, having uncovered more of it, it looks like bad news. We knew that some of the floor was rotten, and it looks like the eaves have both wet and dry rot. We’ll show more on the shed another day but I think it’s safe to say, we’ll probably need a new one.

One of the difficulties about clearing round the shed, is the bank at that end of the site. The shed is surrounded by what may have been compost heaps. It certainly contains a fair amount of rubbish as Elisa discovered:

Elisa pulls a broken piece of corrugated plastic from the bank surrounding the shed