Sunday, 2 April 2017

Paths for the allotment - Hello yellow(ish) brick road

Allotment path made of bricks
My yellow brick road, straight down the middle!
The plan for your allotment or veg patch needs to include some paths, so that you can get around the plot to tend your crops. There are several options, but which is best? Here are some ideas:
 
Most of us start out with  grass paths around and through our allotment or veg patch. This is simply because more often than not, grass is what was covering the area before it was turned into an allotment or veg patch. The simplest option therefore is to leave the grass and carry on, but there are disadvantages. After wet periods, particularly in winter, and depending on how much use the grass paths get, they have a tendency to turn to mud. Things can get very messy!
 
More significantly, grass itself and the many weeds that are normally growing with it, will spread, and encroach onto the intended domain for your onions, potatoes, beans etc. This is pretty much inevitable, and therefore weeding and cutting back the grass around the edge of your plot becomes a regular and essential task. So how can this be avoided? 
 
GREEN FINGERS TIP
GREEN FINGERS TIP: Make sure you check with the allotment authorities that its ok to make alterations. Just in case!
 
 
 
 
 
Allotment
Wooden boards are an ok short term option for paths
My next choice was wooden boards. I don't know if they were the remains of an old shed, or compost bin, but there were loads of planks lying around so I laid them together three abreast down the lines of my paths. They looked ok, were ok to walk on and did a reasonable job of suppressing the weeds, but wood can only be a short term option and now in Year 3 they are starting to rot and fall to pieces. If you have access to wooden boards that you can recycle, go for it, but know you will need to replace them after a few years.
 
Another option is wood or bark chips. These are really good for stopping the weeds coming through, maintaining a nice clear pathway. They are not as even as other options, so if you are using a wheelbarrow frequently, they might make it hard work to push it up and down. They are easy to make, just tip out and spread where you want with a rake. They look the part too, but will rot down eventually and need topping up. On our plot, a couple of large trees have had to be felled and there is now a plentiful supply of wood chips as a result, and I am starting to spread these on the walkways on either side of the plot. 
 
The best material for paths has to be bricks or stones. By far the hardest wearing option, they will withstand abuse from overloaded wheelbarrows, and if laid with only a modicum of care, will provide a level and even surface. Weeds will try and get through the gaps between them, depending on how closely they are laid, but the bricks won't be disturbed when you pull the weeds up. That's not always the case with wooden boards or bark chips.
 
Finding a supply of brick or pavers might not be so easy, and transporting them certainly isn't, but if you happen to have a pile of spare bricks lying around, they are a great option. We recently removed some brickwork from inside our house, producing quite a pile of assorted bricks, blocks and concrete of various shapes, sizes and colours. So I have upgraded some of the paths on the allotment using these materials. A great bit of recycling, keeping them out of the local waste site and giving them another life.
 
Getting them onto the allotment  was interesting. The easiest way was to park the car on the road above the allotment and lob them over the fence, letting them tumble down the slope right next to my plot. However, taking piles of used bricks and throwing them over the fence must have looked like I was fly tipping! The allotment co-ordinator happened to be passing and certainly thought so. He was about to give me a serious talking to until he recognised me. I was able to carry on and then go down the steps into the plot and move the bricks into a slightly neater arrangement. They are not cemented in, just trodden down and fitted very roughly together, but they are already making getting around the plot a lot easier.

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