Actually it’s mainly the orchard area within the tree field that I have been clearing of docks in the past few weeks. I have very nearly finished getting the levels sorted out, and managed to mulch with card some of the new surfaces (see here). Some of the area I managed to sow with some left over green manure seeds (buckwheat and clover) and these did germinate and grow to a certain extent but have not managed to outcompete the dock seed that is present in apparently vast quantities! There is also some established docken from previous years that was probably growing on the site previously, or was in the soil before it was moved down to the orchard area and regrew. The main priority was to get out the docken that were going to seed before they have a chance to spread more seed into the soil. This involved going round with a spade and cutting through the taproot of the plants. The tops were then loaded into a barrow along with a few bits of nettle and some of the couch grass that has apparently become established there also. The barrows were dumped just below the original gateway to the lower field, which still stands like the doorway in Narnia, although the gate is lying down rather than hinging. There is an area of soil below the gate which either didn’t have trees planted, or the trees didn’t take. I think it was the former, since the soil was very compacted, full of docken and stones in the gateway. Hopefully the loads of fertility in the form of weeds will help to rejuvenate the soil. I think of it as a bit like segregating nuclear waste – concentrating all the nasties in one area. I do the same with the rubbish I find: bits of rusty metal, glass, string, coal and brocken crockery get put into piles (or bags) until I can get round to deciding what to do with them.
I had to go over the cardboard I laid on the north side of the trackway, since there were several docks that had punched their way through. This has made a bit of a mess of the cardboard, so I will have to cover the area again before winter. I have cut back all the seeding docken, and made a start at pulling out the juvenile plants that would go to seed from next year. The slightly larger plants often come out cleanly with the taproot when pulled firmly with a twist. I have been twisting off the leaves and leaving them on the soil surface and putting the roots in a bucket before adding them to the weed mountain. Some may not be big enough to regrow, but there’s no point tempting fate. The smaller plants will need digging out. It seems counter intuitive, but the younger leaves tend to just come off in your hand leaving the tap root to regrow in the ground. If the soil is gently loosened with a fork then the whole plant is more likely to come cleanly. I’ve still got some of the larger plants to do, and almost all of the smaller plants. I think I will go over the whole area lightly with a fork anyway and try and remove as much as possible of the couch grass. It will probably grow back anyway, but if I can reduce a bit it will be worthwhile. I’m going to quickly order some green manure seed: fodder radish, red clover and field beans to overwinter and keep down the weed seeds. I may try and spread some of my vetch seeds and plants as well.
I’ve made a start on the final area of the tea garden extension: there was a strip along by the trackway which didn’t need levelling, so is still full of weeds: docken, nettles, couch, creeping thistles, other thistles……I’m going to take the worst out and then mulch over the whole area. The couch will grow back, but I’m hoping that the soil under the mulch will be nice and friable by spring, and a light forking will be sufficient to remove the couch. I am trying out a variation on mulching again. Since I seem to need an awful lot of cardboard to cover an area, I am going to make it go further by combining it with newspapers. Previously when I’ve used newspapers I have weighted them down with grassy materials: old haylage, grass clippings, cut reeds etc. These work to a certain extent, but there always seems to be a deal of work in cutting and moving the clippings, and then they sometimes blow off and I end up with newspaper decorating the fences. This time I am going to spread a single layer of cardboard over the newspapers and weight it down with stones as usual, of which I have a plentiful supply collected out of the tea garden extension when moving the soil earlier in the year. A double layer of cardboard does seem to last pretty well by this method, so we’ll see if a single layer with paper underneath does as well.
They say the camera doesn’t lie, but I wanted to see whether I could take a picture that made my weed infested tea garden extension look great. These pictures were taken from the same position, just crouching or standing up and show how easy it is to be misled.