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Edging My Plot.

When our allotments were first set up it was decided that it would add too much to the cost of setting up the allotments to have all of the plots edged. However, it was later realised that this was a big mistake because being built on a hillside the soil spills over on to the paths all the time as people dig their plots. Consequently many plot holders are now edging their plots to retain the soil and keep a tidy edge. Also the soil spills on the path are encouraging the weeds to grow more vigorously in the paths making it even more of a chore trying to keep the paths weeds free.

With my new plot I decided straight away that I would edge it, but as cheaply as I could. One end was edged with some old concrete coping stones that had been round a large raised fish pond and the other end was edged with some of the better concrete blocks that had been used to make the walls of the pond. Obviously it had taken much effort to clean up the blocks with a hammer and chisel, but it proved a great way of recycling a lot of the concrete from the fishpond that I had removed. I couldnít make up my mind how to edge the front of my plot until recently I came across some cheap Wooden Gravel Boards. After making dozens of wooden pegs cut up from lengths of 2x1 to hold the boards in place, and a lot of effort, the boards were installed. Admittedly, my mate helped me and without his help I donít think I could have got it done, but it was worth the effort as the end result was a nice tidy path and clean edge to work to on my plot. Tidying the spilt soil off the path gave me some soil with which to back fill as I had obviously raised the level of the plot and I added more soil made up of a mixture of composted weeds, blended chicken manure and spent compost from plant pots that had been emptied at home. This was all roughly forked in with the hard packed soil at the edge of the plot and will be dug in more thoroughly when the crops have been harvested as some of them come close to the edge preventing proper digging at the moment. When the Tomatoes come out of the greenhouse at home the old Grow Bags will be tipped over my plot and also dug in. Often people just bin Grow Bags, but the spent compost is a good soil improver for the garden, or allotment. This goes for any old compost from pots of dead plants that have been in the house, or greenhouse. The compost will have been drained of its nutrients and would be no good for potting new plants up in, but however dry and poor it looks it will add much needed Humus to the soil that other plants will benefit from. Alternatively, some people dig in Bark Chips to their plots to add bulk and improve the soil, but whilst this is O.K. in small amounts, too much can deplete the soil of Nitrogen as rotting wood draws Nitrogen from the soil. This can be counteracted to some extent by adding a Nitrogen type fertilizer. In fact when trying to bulk up the soil in a plot it is always a good idea to use a variety of different things and not too much of any, because other things can harm the soil make up in too great a concentration as well. This is especially true of all types of Manure that will at worst burn the roots of plants and at best may encourage too much leafy growth instead of fruiting.
Bark Chips are however, ideal for making paths inside allotment plots because they are so light and easy to remove at a later date if you want to move the path and being a natural product they will break down in the soil, whereas stones obviously wonít. They can harm the soil though in a similar way that a stone, or cobble path might with the Lime that the stone may release into the soil. (On the other hand stoned fruit such as Plums and Cherries do appreciate Lime in the soil.)
Chips made from Pine trees will be more acidic than Chips made from ordinary deciduous trees and as a consequence their use will make the soil more acidic, so this type of chip should only be used for paths. Of course acidic soil is ideal for things like Blueberries, or flowering plants like Azaleas and Rhododendrons.

Generally speaking then, Bark chips are ideal for short-term paths internally to the plot between the raised beds that so many plot holders seem to be putting in, and because they help prevent many types of weed seeds from germinating they are also good between fruit bushes and even Strawberry plants instead of Straw. Permanent paths round the outside edges of the plots on the other hand, need to be more substantial for wheelbarrows and the like, so perhaps they are best made of stone.
 


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