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

Removing the old shed

The fate of the old shed was the subject of robust discussion here at Quest for Veg HQ.

On the one hand, although it was structurally dodgy, it did provide a place to store the few items we wanted to keep out of the rain.

On the other, it was structurally dodgy. Getting rid of it while we have help would mean that we could start with a blank canvas.

In the end, it was probably as well that we got rid of it when we did because it was far more structurally dodgy than we had realised. It was probably only the well-established ivy cover that was holding it up. And the ivy had to go.

Mini digger expertise was very kindly provided by Richard Anderson of Anderson Landscapes. And we are grateful to Elisa Contreras (The Secret Garden) for her continued hard work in helping to clear the plot.

Our thoughts now turn to the shed versus greenhouse debate!