We're entering into the second week of February now and after this long, cold, wet Winter, it's nice to feel the temperature beginning to rise in the poly-tunnel. It's warmed up just enough to allow some lettuce and some Swan River daisies to germinate, but we're still going to keep them wrapped up nice and warm, out of the way of any cold draughts and underneath some plastic cloches. Outside in the garden the ground is still too wet and too cold to do much heavy work, but we did manage to get the vegetable garden cleaned and dug over ready for spreading some rich, black, soil conditioning compost over the top straight after the next heavy shower. The veg garden really needs this extra addition. It's very sandy soil there and the water just drains straight through it, a problem which our grass paths have never suffered with.
The paths have taken a real hammering over the last few months of Autumn and Winter. Every time that the weather has been favourable, our volunteers have been out doing sweeping and tidying, raking up the fallen leaves and doing a bit of Winter pruning. We've been trying to get ourselves ahead of the game before Spring arrives because when it does eventually arrive, it'll be all hands to the pump, trying to stay on top of the weeding, the sowing, the planting and the hundreds of other little everyday jobs that need to be done in every Spring/early Summer garden. But for now, the grass paths need another aerating.
After having dozens of heavy boots trampling up and down on our grass paths, the soil beneath them has become very compacted with very few air pockets to help with drainage. So, this week we've been helping some of the water to drain away and the soil to dry out by making thousands of little holes in the surface of the soil.
The Dutch had a similar idea many hundreds of years ago when they began to reclaim some of their dominion from the North Sea. They dug dykes and ditches, lots of them, all through their towns, cities, countryside and coast. Their land was completely waterlogged, so they dug ditches into which the water in the sodden earth drained. Modern day football clubs do a similar thing every week, but of course they, like us in the garden, can't dig ditches across the length and breadth of their pitch. Football clubs, again like us, have lots of heavy boots trampling down the earth and without constant maintenance their playing surface would soon resemble a mud bath straight after the hippo's have been a wallowing.
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This week we've been aerating our paths by pushing a garden fork into the ground and wiggling it about a bit to make the holes a little bit bigger, before repeating the procedure every few inches along the paths. This gives the soil the opportunity to 'capture' some of the Winters rain which gathers in the holes and allows the wind the dry it out a little bit.
This is normally a job which is done in the garden in October, before the bad weather comes, that is if you're working in a domestic garden where the lawns or grass paths don't get too much wear and tear. But here at the Oasis garden, Your Place, our volunteers are in the garden every weekday morning, whatever the weather and the aeration of the grass paths, although completed only three and a half months ago, now needs another going over before the paths get too muddy and slippery.