As mentioned previously, When I chose it, I thought the plot was flat (well at least it wasn’t on a hill!), but it actually had lots of small hillocks and dips in it. It looked like an ancient burial site! From chatting to the other plot holders I think the previous tenant piled up the turf in random places when they created their beds.
I decided I want it flat so that I can put what I want where I want, rather than following the existing design. It would also be good to be able to walk across the plot without falling down random holes and spraining my ankle.
I checked with the ‘no dig’ guru Charles Dowding (he answered my tweet!) about digging to level the ground, and he said to go for it.
I also googled best ways to level allotments, and came across a recommendation to get an azada. It a sharp hoe like tool that you use in a chopping motion (see pictures below). I got mine from Get Digging – I got the medium one, and it has been completely amazing. I cannot recommend it highly enough. There is no way a spade would have dealt with the two long hillocks as quickly and easily as the azada did.
I have a dodgy back, and didn’t get a single twinge; I did get a few small blisters on my hands. But that’s because I’m a namby pamby office worker!
The other disadvantage is that because the hillocks were quite high I was swinging the azada above my head, which meant my hair was covered in soil!
Taking advantage of some sunny days in January and February, I put on my warmest clothes and decided to tackle two of the big piles of soil.
The first section was at the front of the plot, and was about 5 meters long, 1 metre wide and about 50cm tall. It was full of quite woody roots, but the azada made short work of it, and I just used the spade to re-distribute the soil. As you can see there was a trench around the mound, so I just used the soil to fill the trench. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish, including a few rest breaks in between digging.
The second task was to tackle the much taller mound on the right of the plot. It was only about 3 metres long x 1 metre wide, but it was quite tall – maybe 3/4 metre tall.
Again I employed the services of my trusty azada. There was a lot more soil in this one, so once I had filled in the trench round the outside I had to barrow it over to join the big pile of soil in the back left hand corner of the plot (under the pallets in the second photo below). It was about 6 barrow loads, and is really nice quality soil. I will use it to fill the raised beds when I construct them. Currently it’s sitting under some weed suppressant fabric to keep it weed free.
I’m really happy with how much flatter the plot is looking. After 3 months of being covered, the grass has died back, and I can see where the potholes and trenches are, which will make them much easier to fill – and there is plenty of soil in the mound at the back to give me a nice level plot. Next job is to build a shed. Happy days!