These days it is usually dusk as I leave the allotment. I go there late afternoon to pick kale, carrots and parsnips. It has been too wet underfoot to do much work (our soil turns to glue in winter rain) but I have been making paths between the raised beds and behind the polytunnel. For the permanent paths I have laid membrane, for others whose location I may change, I’ve put down recycled cardboard. Then I’ve been covering both with wood chippings.
These last I am currently scavenging from a big heap left by the council beside the footpath not far from the allotment. It means a longer walk from the house. Instead of going south along the field path, I strike out west up the Sytche, where I fill two bags from the heap and then slither my way along a hedgerow track and into the wood before I can turn east and drop down on to the allotment. All a bit daft I know, but you get a fine view of the town along the way.
Back in the summer I was gathering chippings from the Linden Field and using them in a no-dig experiment. When I took over the polytunnel a couple of years ago, I also acquired half a plot that had been neglected for several seasons. Some of it I cleared by digging until I saw the error of my ways. The rest I divided into terraces using old planks, and then instead of hacking at the pernicious weeds (dandelion, buttercup, couch grass), I buried them in cardboard and several inches of chippings.
This is not fool-proof. You can’t keep a good weed down. And I’ve had to pull up a few young dandelions since, but they are easier to get a grip on through the chippings.
Eventually, when the worms and fungi have done their work, I should be able to plant into this mulch. Thereafter, it will be a matter of adding more layers of compost. AND NO DIGGING.
Now is also the season of leaf gathering. They do take a good year to eighteen months to rot down, though someone told me you could speed up the process by stirring in some grass mowings. The leaves I gathered last year are already breaking down into lovely crumbly loam which I’ll use for seed sowing in the spring. Leaf mould is low in nutrients, but it can be enriched with the addition of shredded comfrey leaves that rot down very quickly.
I make simple silos out of a rolls of chicken wire, but you can use black bin bags or leaf sacks.
And now I’ve lingered here long enough. The light is going, and it’s time to walk home across the field, the dusk lit by apples like lanterns along the allotment fence.