Clearing phase

I maintain there are some things in life you should do only once.  I’d put clearing and regenerating a 10 rod allotment plot up at the top of the list.  Yet, thanks to the Duke of Northumberland, I’m halfway through a second clearance and regeneration project.

I’ve taken a different approach to this second clearance for a number of reasons:

  • I’m ten years older
  • I’ve injured my right shoulder (too much digging!)
  • I’ve 10 years of plotting experience
  • I had a bit of money to throw at it
  • A deadline to move perennial plants from the other plot

This post outlines the two approaches.  I’m not advocating one way over any others, we all work in a way that suit us best but this is what I’ve learned so far…

I’m a great believer in chunking down, especially when the chunk happens to 10 rods of overgrown clay!

Plot 1 in 2006. Dig a bit and plant

2006 – I cleared out a line of overgrown blackberries and walked the plot to see what could be salvaged; a whole row of raspberries and a bed of strawberries.  Then I got myself some pink string (a contrast colour!) and a pile of bamboo sticks and marked out 8×4 beds up to the blackberry fence.  I’d already decided the bit beyond could wait until the following year.  Then I got digging and always standing so that I could see what had been dug rather than what was still left to do.

By focusing on one bed at a time, I  had 12 beds ready to go by May but then began the battle with the Horsetail began…


2016 – The second plot was in a more advanced state of neglect, with around a third of the plot best described as a thick bramble patch.  The rest was covered in knee high and thick couch grass.  I had to find the ground before I could start digging.

I decided to start on the scary bramble patch; I picked a corner and systematically worked my way in using a combination of loppers, hedge shears and secateurs. I built up piles of clippings as I went.  Reducing the brambles to piles of clippings and then to potash took two weekends.  Along the way, I found an old incinerator and a wooden mini greenhouse.

The bramble roots needed to come out and some were HUGE.  I felt quite daunted at the prospect so decided to focus on another part of the plot rather than become disheartened.  I strimmed the grass but the Ryobi petrol strimmer wasn’t up to the job; I needed a brush-cutter.  The local hire shop had a nice Stiehl that cut down everything; in fact it probably took longer to figure out how to adjust and wear the harness.

Once cleared to ground level, I realised the size of elephant before me.  Not just 10 rods of clay but mounds and trenches not to mention the bramble roots.  Once I started digging, I also unearthed bags and bags of twigs and roots.  Time sit down with a cup of tea and figure out a plan.