september 1. Why dig the soil and then compact it? All that time and effort. You dig a trench one and a half spits deep. ( a spit is the depth of a spade) Shift the soil to the other end of the plot and then turn the soil into the trench row by row until you reach the other end. Depending on the state of the soil and what you intend to grow you might even incorporate some organic material (manure or compost) by putting it into the trench before turning over the soil from the next row. All this is very beneficial, aerating the soil and feeding it, enhancing its moisture retention. Then you stomp all over it.

september 2. You what? You walk on it. When you sow your seeds, and when you tend them by perhaps watering them to aid germination and, definitely, by hand weeding the tiny seedlings to stop them being crowded out. You walk on the soil and compact it. Does this make sense? When you dig your plot in this way you automatically raise its level by aerating it and even more so if you add organic material. If you don't walk on it, ever again, it will stay like this. So why not never walk on it?

~ a more established raised bed with manure mulch (in Spring)~
a more established raised bed with manure mulch (in Spring)

september 5. One afternoon I stood back and looked at my allotment and saw the medieval field I learned about at school. In the 'Open Field' system they had three or four large fields which enabled a degree of crop rotation to take place, with one field being left fallow each year. Each field was divided into strips and the peasants tilled strips in different parts of different fields so each had a variety of 'good' and 'bad' soil to cultivate, and always had some land to cultivate in the fields which were not left fallow.

updatedaugust2007 this month: what to do updated every month next month: what to do updated every month a fresh, detailed, topical item of interest updated every month fellow plotdiggers share their pictures with us weeds: common annuals & perennials
content and photos updated every month practical details on how to begin Crop Rotation Companion Planting herbs
slugs and snails fellow plotdiggers share their pictures with us recipes from our chefs Basil and Doyle photo review of the year


In 'Dig This' I look at a specific item of interest in detail. Last month it was about when water is needed, this month it is on the benefits of raised beds.

~ a newly created raised bed ~
a newly created raised bed

september3. I divide my plot into beds of about four feet or less in width. 'Walkways’ are formed in between from the soil turned onto the beds, thereby increasing their height. When tending the beds I stand on the side of them, which gives the sides strength and saves supporting them with wood or other material. When I first took over my plot it contained some beds supported by old scaffold planks, but the edges had rotted and encouraged a whole eco system of insects and gastropods to hang out. Slugs and snails are enough of a problem without encouraging them by providing a suitable habitat but no food. No prizes for guessing where they will dine.

september4. The only possible disadvantage on our allotment is that it is so well drained that moisture retention can be an issue. Raised beds improve the drainage and they can get a bit dry when there is little rain. Nevertheless I reckon the advantages outway the disadvantage and the latter can be mitigated against by digging in organic matter.

september6. The peasants would never have had to walk on their land - it would stay aerated and would not get unduly compacted. It’s a lot easier to dig the plot over when it needs it. Those peasants knew what they were doing.

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