Sunday, 18 March 2012

Digging for therapy

Why is digging such good therapy? It makes my back ache, my limbs stiffen up a couple of days later, I get really thirsty, feel absolutely shattered and look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards after. But it's still one of my favourite garden tasks and I've been thinking about the reasons why this evening. For me it boils down to this:

Digging allows me time to think; to let my mind wander over events past, present and future.  I get to watch the birds fly between the hedge and the bird feeders and find pleasure in watching my cat Jasper slip into the plastic mini greenhouse to bask in the warmth of the sun sheltered from the chill wind.  Sometimes there's the chance to chat across the fence with my next door neighbour's husband about tasks that neither of us got around to over the past months but will definitely do this summer (yeah right!).  Then there's the true pleasure in standing back, leaning on the spade and looking at the work done. It all adds up to being good for the soul.

This weekend has been about just that. Digging that is, not the soul. To set the scene: I need another couple of beds this year as 2 out of the 4 are currently in use.  I recently moved all my herbs in with the rhubarb for a more permanent position; I'm now growing sage, golden marjoram, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary and mint......with room for a couple more.  So that's one bed in use. The other bed is currently hosting some 'all year' lettuce which has left me with only 2 beds to grow veg in this year (impressive maths!).

So instead of adding more raised beds I've gone for single-digging deep beds and used John Seymour's 'the New Self-Sufficient Gardener' book as guidance.  First I used an old plastic sheet as a rough outline and cut the outline of the bed with a mattock. Then I cut out a line across the width of the soon-to-be bed and cut out the turf before digging down to the depth of the spade (also called a 'spit'). The turf and soil dug out was put onto a plastic sheet for the time being.  Then working backwards I repeated this, putting the turf into the trench previously dug and chopping it up before digging up the top soil and shovelling it on top.  When I reached the last trench I filled it with the turf and topsoil from the first trench.  As I went along I got rid of any roots and stones I found but still finished off by raking over the surface and removing any that had managed to escape first time round.

The soil will be nicely aerated this way and, as the width of the bed means I won't have to stand on it, should remain so.

I began the job yesterday - eventually giving up because every time I went outside it rained and every time I came in the sun came out!  But today's weather was better and I was able to spend several non-interrupted hours finishing it off.  The plan now is to divide it and use a small section as a seed bed and the rest as a holding bed; for this season at least.  Looking at the picture below I think it would look more attractive with additional planting around the edges.

1 bed done, 1 to go
It's not the most straight-edged bed (perhaps I should have used string as a guide) but still, I'm pleased with my handiwork. Hopefully I'll be creating the second one next weekend.  Ooh, I've just noticed there's enough room between the new bed and the fruit cage to put in a small triangular raised bed to grow some strawberries in.  That's another job to add to this year's list then!

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