Monday, 22 October 2012

Introducing Our Soil

At long last, we've done it!

We have soil!

And gravel

and stoney patches

and some weird stained areas and lots of broken up bricks and tiles and even a crushed kitchen sink complete with taps. All exposed from their previous home under all that concrete.

And we made a massive pile of broken up concrete.

So what next for our soil? Well it's obvious some pampering is going to be needed and maybe a little soil transfusion in the really awful areas - a neighbouring farmer is by chance building a biodigester over the road from us, so we're hoping to be able to help him out by taking some of the topsoil he removes to build it.

As much as possible though, we'd like to improve what we've got on site with what we've got on site. Some relatively good topsoil has been removed in the process of clearing the concrete down, so we heaped this up and have used it to spread over the top of everything once we'd finished reshaping it.

The concrete from that pile pictured above has now been crushed down. We wanted to reuse it as much as possible to help build up the site. We've used it to create pathways, drainage and irrigation runs, as filler for a gabion wall and as a base to the foundations of our barn renovation. Surprisingly little is left over considering the huge piles that covered our yard about a month back. I think we estimated that we'd dug up around 400 tonnes of concrete and all we've got left is a little pile of around 35 tonnes. Pretty good going I'd say!

The final soil issue we're going to be dealing with is the compaction that will have happened from sitting under concrete for years and from having all this heavy machinery run over it since taking the concrete up. So I've been investigating tap rooting green manures - plants that will send down deep roots to break through any compacted layers, allowing water and the roots of future plants to penetrate down into the soil with ease. Being green manures, they'll also add some lovely organic matter and will start to build up a more healthy soil for us.

Unfortunately we missed the deadline for getting them in this autumn, so it's plan B time. Not sure what plan B is yet! Well, it'll be tap rooting green manures of some kind in spring, but possibly also a tractor with decompaction attachment will have to run over the site to get it properly sorted. I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that what we're doing here is no longer garden scale and so perhaps (disappointingly) we're going to have to resort to big machines to work it in these first stages at least. I just love this romantic ideal that we're going to do it all by hand and it'll be a labour of love and we'll look back and say 'we did all of that ourselves, aren't we great(!)', but with two kids under 3 and a massive project on the go, I suppose I've got to get real and accept that we're going to need to bring in the machines from time to time.

There is loads more to catch you up on. This post has taken me weeks and weeks to get around to putting up, so loads has happened since that first big wow digger arrived back in August. So keep checking back and I'll try and get some more news and photos up soon!


  1. October 2013 at 07:19

    Hi Nancy

    Nice blog! It's lovely to see how things have progressed over a relatively short period of time. I wonder how your perennial vegetables are going? I have been experimenting with them for some time now and may have some that I can share with you. I have two gardens, one in Shropshire and one just over the border so it would be good to come and see you sometime and even better if I can bring something with me to share.

    My blog is at and my email address is

    All the best

    Anni Kelsey

  2. Hi Nacy,

    I'm very interested in what you are doing and am wondering why you haven't posted for nearly a year (or have a missed something). It was your blog that inspired me to write my own blog about how we are trying to take a field that floods and turn it into a place where we grow our food and help look after nature and wildlife. If you are interested my blog is at

    Off to read Anni's blog now (above) to see what perennials I should be planting.

  3. Hi Andy

    Really glad you enjoy the blog! It's one of those things that's always at the back of my mind - must write a blog post about this.. but since landing baby number two a year and a half ago, I've got so little spare time and sadly when I do have a moment, it's either work the yard or write about it, but not enough time for both! Keep a look out though - work should quieten down over winter and I intend to use that time to write a load of updates about what's been going on. Don't want to forget it all! Has been lovely to watch life gradually emerge from our bare soil and to see the waves of different plants come marching across it as the soil's first year rolls on. After much planning on what seed mix would be best to nourish and heal our poor old compacted soil, we missed the boat and just let it do its own thing, with fab results. Can't tell it all here, but do keep a look out as I will definitely write it up at some point!

    And I will also definitely have a look at your blog. Thanks for giving me the address. And do read Anni's, she's got some great things on there!

    Best wishes,




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