AllotmentPlotopia Progress – Week 6

Hold your breath - I've been rotavating couch grass!

6 weeks in – feel like such a long time already!

It’s generally been a fairly productive week, though it started late.  As I mentioned in my previous roundup, I ordered a rotavator which was delivered on Tuesday.  Unfortunately however, it was dead on arrival – one of the ‘prongs’ on the battery was missing.  A quick chat with Amazon online and a replacement was arranged without me needing to return the faulty one first.  Love them or hate them, you can’t fault Amazon for their customer service!

The replacement arrived early Thursday and the battery quickly put on charge.  I did some tentative work leading up to this – clearing stones and rubble from the ground.  While I’m not finding anywhere near as much rubble on this plot as I did my last, it’s still a surprising amount.

Surprisingly, the strawberries – which are still in the bags I brought across from the old site, are still fruiting.  Not with the same level of vigour, but it’s still nice to have one or two to snack on when I visit.

Strawberries still fruiting!

Rotavating Couch Grass

As you may recall, the reason for the rotavator purchase was because using a fork to dig over was proving a little too much for my fragile body.  When I first took on this plot I immediately removed most of the ‘high’ weeds – partly because they pulled out really easily, and partly so I could see ‘real’ progress quite quickly.  The ‘low’ weeds – 99% of which is couch, are not quite so easy to remove.  It’s formed quick a dense ‘carpet’ which is proving difficult to dislodge – it can’t simply be ‘pulled’ out.

Before I opted for the rotavator, I spent a lot of time looking for opinions on whether or not to use it on the couch.  Most argue that you definitely shouldn’t do it – but in the majority of cases where that was argued, they also went on to suggest spraying with Roundup.  As an organic gardener, that isn’t an option for me.

The Organic Approach

In terms of the organic approach, a few did suggest that rotavating, then repeating the process as couch reappears will weaken it sufficiently.

The ground itself needs ‘loosening’ and leveling before I can do anything else, so one way or another I need to get on top of the weeds and get the soil workable.  I decided to take a view that if at least I can get the soil workable and other tasks completed, I can then deal with the weeds as and when they regrow.

So, I headed to the plot – rotavator in hand – with a view to ‘blitzing’ it and leaving the freshly chewed up weeds in the ground.

As it happens, this plan failed – but arguably for the better.

The rotavator itself is actually very good (review to follow soon) – but it’s not a match for a petrol-powered monster.  The working depth isn’t as deep, and the couch often gets tangled up in the blades.  The tangling is a nuisance, but to be expected given how it’s taken hold.

The less powerful aspect however means it’s not chopping the roots up into really fine pieces. It’s essentially just dislodging the weeds.  I’m sure I could perhaps apply more force, or run over it a few more times to achieve that if I wanted to.  I’m happy for them to simply be dislodged. I can run the rotavator over a patch, then pick out or rake off the weeds.  I’ve found raking, followed by manual picking for any stragglers to be the most ‘effective’.

This approach almost certainly is no quicker than had I forked and hand weeded. But it is ‘easier’, or less work on the muscles.  I’ve been checking areas at random, and I can’t see any couch roots lingering around following this process. I’m content that I’m achieving as much as I otherwise would have doing it purely by hand.

Visual Progress

I quite enjoy weeding. Mostly. But I’ll admit, right now I’m just itching to get this bit ‘done’.  I want to get putting the timber in and getting a structure established.  I want to get something in the ground for winter.  So much to do, so little time!

(Slowly) Making Progress!

The drainage ditch that runs through the centre of the plot has acted as something of a ‘partition’. I’ve been working my way down one side before the other (except a few metres at the top, where the ditch doesn’t reach).  I’m now 2/3rds of the way through preparing the ground on the first half, and I really want to get this side finished in the coming week.  Ideally, I want the other side to be done within a fortnight thereafter – or sooner if possible.

The forecast at the moment looks favourable, though the school holidays add a slight complication to my time management.  I may need to bribe my daughter with picnics and hot chocolate. In exchange for a little help this coming week!

Lee Bailey

Founder and Editor, ForkMojo. Organic Allotmenteer, Husband, Father & Programmer.

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