Prepare the way; make straight paths

When we first got the allotment, we drew up a rough plan for what we’d do with it. Led astray by enthusiasm, we came up with a complex pattern of mini-raised beds and a maze of paths to navigate them (I say “we”, but it was mostly my fault). It would have taken Ground Force a month to get set up.

Now we’ve pruned our ambitions back to something more realistic: We’re splitting the bottom half of the plot into four large, equal-sized beds to be used for a standard crop rotation. The top half will be used for various fruit bushes and trees, and any miscellaneous others that don’t fit into the rotation scheme.

Marking out the path

Having got most of the plot clear, and dug the weed and tree roots out of a good portion of it, that means that we’re finally able to start marking out the beds with enough confidence to put down some paths. First to do are the two central paths separating the beds, and that’s what we made a start on this weekend.

First we marked out the beds with painstaking precision. For some reason it seemed important that each bed was as close as possible to being exactly the same size as the others. I realise that our vegetables are unlikely to get demotivated by a sense that they’ve been short-changed on growing space, and fail to fulfil their potential as they enviously gaze at the fractionally larger bed on the other side of the path (where the soil will always seem browner, no doubt), so this was mostly a concession to my pedantry.

The Brick Mine

To construct the paths, we’re going for weed membrane, covered with wood chippings, edged with bricks.

The weed membrane is a satisfying 1m wide, and so our paths will be 1m wide too. That’s good in practical terms, and a nice round number (along with being a pedant, I find unrounded decimals just a little unnerving).

The wood chippings come from a pile that’s been dumped at the edge of the site for general use. We don’t yet have a wheel-barrow, but ferrying them in potato sacks worked well enough.

The bricks are recovered from a path that we excavated at the top of the plot but didn’t think quite suited our purposes. At some point we’ll need some more, but we should have enough on-site to get a good proportion of the paths set up.

Our first section of path

The end result seems pretty good; it’s certainly easier to get around on than the claggy soil that was there before.

The big test will be how much maintenance it needs. If the membrane suppresses the weeds, the bricks stay in place, and the wood chippings don’t get washed down the slope by the rain, then I’ll be very happy with it.

And until anything goes wrong with it, we’ll press on with building more of the same.

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