Now I like a challenge as much as the next person, but even I was initially put off by the mound that was on our new allotment plot that we now call Park Lane. It seemed like such a daunting project that would take us weeks to clear. We had no idea of what lurked underneath the black plastic, weeds and rubble, but the only way to find out was to get in there.
At first we were struggling with the couch grass, brambles and nettles that were happily living on the top of the pile, as well as the comfrey roots, but our aim was to set ourselves targets of how much we wanted to clear each day and tackle it bit by bit.
The brambles were a big problem as they had grown through the other weeds and the wire fence that is positioned at the back of the mound making them very difficult to remove. I came home covered in scratches and it looked like I had gone to war with a cat!
We decided that the best course of action would be to start to remove the sides of the mound and head back towards the fence so that we had a better idea of the size of ground we would be left with. After we removed some of the more invasive weeds, we were pleasantly surprised that some of the soil underneath was really good quality and relatively easy to remove.
Our plan was to not to move all of the soil from the mound to the other end of the plot, causing lots of back breaking wheelbarrow journeys; we decided to build another raised bed adjacent to the fruit beds that would eventually be the place where we built our brassica cage. This meant that all we had to do was remove the weeds and roots and rake some of the soil into position rather than wheeling to another location on the plot.
That plan worked fine until we realised that there was much more soil than we had actually anticipated! The existing raised beds were quite low on soil so we thought it would be a good idea to top these up to a higher level; 30 barrow loads minimum per bed! We definitely weren’t expecting that they would take up quite as much as they did.
Working around the outer edges of the mound and heading towards the back fence really helped to give us a better perspective of what we were dealing with. The top and outer edges of the mound were the hardest to clear as these were entangled with many weeds. This meant that we had to use many tools, including picks, to break up the soil and matted weeds. We had heard a few rumours that there may be carpet lurking underneath the soil but we were happy enough that we hadn’t come across any. Yet!
A few barrow loads of soil and weeds later we were presented with both beige and pink carpet that was at some point had nestled happily in someone’s lounge! That was a complete nightmare to remove as it was heavy and completely covered in soil. It makes me wonder why people would even bring this stuff on site in the first place. Believe it or not, allotments are not a dumping ground for rubbish, especially when someone else has to deal with it at a later date. (Get off your soapbox Debb!!) We uncovered at least 4 barrow loads of carpet as well as many piles of tarpaulin, blue plastic sheeting that crumbled every time you tried to move a piece, metal rods, plastic bottles, ice cream tubs, house bricks; you name it we probably found it in the mound!
The original plan was helping to motivate us though as each day we tackled the mound, the more difference we could see that it was making. The structure of the plot was opening up allowing us to see how much space we actually had, rubbish and weeds were being cleared off the site courtesy of the skip, we could get full access to the wire fence enabling us to prune the overgrown brambles and trees that had grown through and the excess soil was used to make new raised beds and top up the existing ones.
This is how the mound looks today. All cleared and a new bark path and patio area laid around. The patio will area will soon be covered with a new pergola that has been kindly donated to us again for free! The remaining soil that we are left with is higher than we expected but that just means that we will have to higher the surrounding boards to hold it back. Not a problem as we have a good supply of timber already.
So, sometimes we get put off from attempting things, but if you look past the initial daunting task and tackle it step by step, mounds can be conquered!