Allotment

Digging Docks

Before I can get the growing season underway I have an awful lot of work to do on the new half of the plot. When I took it on there were weeds up to my head as it had gone through a few owners in a couple of months. They’d come down, do a day and then leave for weeks on end as the weeds took over. The last guy came, rotavated all those weeds, and left again never to be seen again.  I took over in July and covered it all over with black weed fabric. In December I added manure to the beds and covered it back over. 


This technique has worked on most of the weeds. The only think left is the docks.  Itching will stop the docks. And thanks to the guy with the rotavator there are thousands and thousands of tiny dock roots all over this plot. That’s the problem with docks, you see. If you don’t get the whole root out then it will regrow. Even a tiny piece of root will allow a new dock plant to take hold. 


So I have been spending an awful lot of time sitting and working through these beds one at a time and trying to clear as many of the docks as possible. I know I won’t get them all. These roots are deep and brittle so they sometimes break. Or they won’t have sprouted yet so they’re hard to spot. Some are just so deep and established I’m physically unable to get the whole root. They will come back. 


How I’m tackling these beds is a multi step approach. First I go over the bed with the fork gently lifting the earth to loosen the roots. I’m not turning anything over, I don’t want to break and bury the roots. But by loosening the earth first you make it much easier to get the whole dock out in one go. 


Then I go through inch by inch with my hands and my convenient pokey-tool and lever each dock root out. They can be over a foot long so patience and technique count for a lot. When I’ve got the visible plants and roots out I sift through the soil with my hands feeling for any leftover or dormant roots. This is a nice handy step because it’s doing double duty of weeding and also working in all that nice rotted manure so less digging later! 


Eventually you get a nice clear bed of well turned soil. But wait! Give it a week or two before planting anything. You’ll be able to see a few docks have escaped the cull and emerged once more from the soil and it’s easy then to go in and pull them out. I’m then trying to wait another week to see if there are any more to come before declaring that bed good to go. So far this is working well. The initial hand weeding takes several hours but after that it’s a very quick job to catch the stragglers and soon I can get planting. I definitely need the beds because my onions especially are raring to go in their modules and need planting out asap! 

Have you got any techniques for dealing with pernicious weeds? 

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