Autumn means the bringing out of spades, the cleaving of earth and the unveiling of secateurs dropped in the soil around mid-summer to cries of, 'That's were those buggers went'. At Hopwood Kitchen Gardens we have been tackling the old plant nursery for some weeks, we have removed a struggling beech hedge and covered over the weeds bursting out of the copse at the rear of the site with weed membrane. This is where we have been carefully stacking the plants from the nursery, weeding as we go and taking time, thanks to Steve McQueen, identifying each plant. There may be labels to print, plants to sell but that will be in spring, meanwhile we have beech hedges to replant (in a better location) and an area to dig over. Bring out the spades! No. Stop right there and box a little cleverer.
Below is part of the area to be dug over, it's fantastic soil except there's a problem with drainage and digging this over will be labour intensive, sanity breaking, back snapping work. It will eventually be home to twenty-seven beds that will be three foot wide and around forty-seven foot long. That's a lot of digging!
You can see that we have another quarter of this new area to clear, more plants to label and move, more weeds to get rid of; there's mares tail (equisetum arvense) and Himalayan balsam (impatiens glandulifera) to name a few. They have smashed through the weed membrane and this means again we have to clear the soil in a way that will be effective and relatively low maintenance. Something we can draw into a cycle that includes soil improvement, low tillage (turning the soil), off setting carbon, and growing food.
Bring in the pigs! Yes, pigs! This wonderful cleaners of soil will soon be housed on the old plant nursery and will turn and manure the soil.
They will quickly clear the area, weeds and all, leaving no prisoners and manuring the soil. They'll stay there up to six weeks before we start to plant, allowing us to get on and add any additional compost.