Now that we’ve had our allotment for five years or so you might think that we are past the difficult early stages of digging compacted and perennial weed-infested ground. Well, we should be, but we aren’t. And therein lies a cautionary tale.
Back when we first took on the new section, we laid carpet remnants over much of the area (what were we thinking!). The plan was to smother the weeds in preparation for working the virgin ground. Well, time went by. Periodically we rolled up pieces to get at sections of earth, leaving these cylinders on top of other carpets as we didn’t know what to do with the heavy, dirt-encrusted things. The rest, however, remained in place as the seasons came and went.
Thus the carpet, which was originally introduced to clear the ground, became the biggest obstacle to doing so. Soon you couldn’t see it at all, as this layer was camouflaged by the growth of vigorous brambles, bindweed, and couch grasses. A tree sapling and a rambling rose pushed their way up through the seams. The area became a wilderness taking up almost a third of the new allotment. The carpets began to degrade as matted roots entwined themselves in their layers, but they would never decompose. The task became more insurmountable each year, as did my longing to have it done.
And then, one day last weekend, in a still not fully understood moment of manic determination, the two of us just did it. We dug out that carpet, inch by inch. The work was back-breaking (and wheelbarrow-breaking, as ours deflated under the strain of hauling the piles away). The photos can’t convey how tough it was. But just think – after the newly-exposed, compacted, root-infested soil is dug over (more back-breaking work), we will have cleared our ground at last. More land! I feel like we’ve just taken on another allotment…