A good moment happened at the allotment a few days ago, I usually arrive and see lots of things that need to be done, and a to-do list appears in my head.
But on this day I stood back, and looked over the area that 13 months ago was covered waist-high in nettles and bind-weed, and felt a small thrill of satisfaction.
The weeds have finally gone and been replaced with potatoes, french beans, squash and courgettes.
My original allotment is only half-size so I’ve had my eyes on the spare area next door for a while. It measures 7 x 9 metres, with another 4 metres beyond that planted with a jumble of neglected fruit trees.
Weed-killer wasn’t an option, it may seem like a quick-fix, but chemicals don’t get rid of weeds permanantly, they re-grow and have to be sprayed again.
Here’s my case for growing food organically:
- first has to be eating food that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides,
- many artificial chemicals languish around in the garden or allotment and the excess finds it’s way into ground-water, rivers and streams,
- pesticides harm bees and other insects, working against the very creatures I’m trying to encourage for pollinating and keeping the food-chain intact,
- weedkillers and all other garden chemicals are very expensive,
- lots of pesticides and herbicides have been gradually reduced from sale, and this is likely to continue, alternatives will have to be found.
This is what happened instead:
- first I trampled the weeds down and covered the whole area with large pieces of brown cardboard. I phoned around and found a local kitchen company who were happy to let me have as much as I needed, instead of putting it in their skip, they stacked it all up for me to collect,
- I laid the cardboard over the weeds, overlapping each piece by at least 2 feet/60cm to exclude as much light as possible,
- the cardboard was covered with tarpaulin and pegged in place.
It didn’t look very pretty, which pained me a little because I want the allotment to look nice, but it was the cheapest (we already had tarpaulins) and easiest solution, and turned out to be very effective.
I really wasn’t sure how long to leave it all, but I was eager to start growing, so earlier this year I peeled back some of the tarpaulin, the cardboard had rotted away, and began digging out the tangled mass of roots.
Potatoes were the first crop to go in, and gradually with the help of my husband, countless buckets of weed roots were dug up.
Tarpaulin was gradually pulled back as vegetables were ready to be planted, and I added plenty of well-rotted manure to all the planting holes
This patch at the allotments hadn’t been cultivated for at least 20 years and so far, after 7 months, the nettles have gone, a few spindly bindweed have grown and I’m harvesting vegetables much sooner than I imagined.
There’s no doubt that gardening organically takes more time initially, but I do like the way it encourages me to take a slower approach to growing, and it really was very simple.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson.