It wont have escaped the notice of any UK gardeners that it’s been very wet lately. I try to stay off my rather fragile silty soil in such conditions as it’s structure is rapidly degraded by my big feet.
Today though was the third dry day we’ve had in a row, practically a drought, so I went up to the allotment to dig out some Dahlias. I have been growing seed raised Dahlias in good numbers on the plot for around four years and this spring I raised some plants from bought seed for a change. I had two lots, decoratives and cactus. Neither were anything special so I have treated them as annuals, dug them up, put the whole lot through the shredder and spread it back on the ground. When the dead stems were standing it looked like it would yield a lot of material but shredding reduces the volume greatly.
I would be very happy to get a bit more material to spread on the same ground but even what I have should provide some protection to the soil surface against damage by heavy rain and the worms will pull it into the soil to the benefit of both structure and nutrient content. On my other plot I have emptied one compost bay and turned a second into the space. It’s been dumped in heaps, not yet spread out because I need to get the dandelions out first.
This is mulching for a very specific purpose, to protect the soil surface during the winter in a fairly high rainfall area and to build soil fertility and structure without digging. Aesthetics are irrelevant and while the benefits to the soil will include improved water holding capacity, it’s not an important part of why I’m doing it. Weed suppression is another thing that in my situation doesn’t seem to work very well. There are too many weed seeds blowing in from adjacent plots to hope to keep a weed free plot so I don’t worry unduly about it. I regard it as a somewhat unsatisfactory green manure.
It’s probably less than a year ago that I removed the last camellias from my number two plot, determined that I would not replace them. My resolve didn’t last and I have two rows of small plants where my worn out strawberry bed was. The intention is to grow them on for no more than two seasons and give them to the National Collection at Mt Edgcumbe.
The rest of the Dahlias, those to the left of the bags in the picture, were grown from seed I’d collected from plants in the garden, meaning there was a little more emotional investment in them than in the ones from bought seed. That’s why they’ve been there three years. Even so, most are going to be dug and disposed of. I shall keep the best four or five. Partly this is because I intend to move my polytunnel from the garden up to the allotment, it’s not the prettiest thing to have in the garden; partly it’s so I have somewhere to plant the next batch of Dahlias that I will sow in March 2020.
The old strawberry plants are in the bags with a lot of weeds. I’m hoping they will die off before I add them to the compost heap. Or maybe I’ll bury them, breaking my own no digging rule, as they’re going to be slow to rot down.