Digging brambles

Bramble roots More bramble roots

Took advantage of the sensational weather on Sunday to start digging my new land.

Almost immediately wished I hadn’t. God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to bless me with ground that’s heaving with bramble roots as thick as your thumb. And the ‘soil’ is basically compacted clay. The kind that forces you to sit on the spade handle to lever it up.

I collapsed, utterly shagged out, after just an hour. At this rate, I’ll be turning the last clod when the first ice crystals form on the innermost circle of Hell.

20 Responses to “Digging brambles”

  1. Magic Cochin Says:

    You need to borrow a couple of pigs! They’d get the job done in an afternoon and manure the plot as well 😉


  2. glittertrash Says:

    I know you’re a big fan of the digging method, but maybe you could treat this ‘bonus’ land as a chance to try out raised beds as an alternative to digging? Steal some bricks, cinder-blocks or wood planks from somewhere, knock together some planter-boxes, layer the bases thickly with cardboard so the brambles don’t come through, then layer-fill them lasagne style (so many resources on the web for how to do this). Near as I can tell it’s perfect for this situation, cos digging that soil will either kill you or take all summer, it’s a quick & fairly straightforward way to add extra growing area to your plot, and as the layered material in the raised beds break down, and the plant roots seek downwards, they’ll be able to access all the nutrients in the clay.

    If it doesn’t work out, and you decide you don’t like the method, you can just dismantle the beds and continue on your digging way at the end of the season, and hopefully having all that composting material above it will have broken down the clay a bit to help you.

  3. Soilman Says:

    Hmmm. This is not daft, Glittertrash. I’m very tempted.

  4. Mary Says:

    I second what Glittertrash proposes – it’s worked for me on more than one occasion. I’ve been “blessed” with hard clay soils at every garden I’ve ever tried, and adding soil is the only way to keep my sanity! Our current method is to put good dirt on top of the garbage with no wood around the sides – makes it easier to plant right up to the edge, and no need to find those materials.

  5. Cazaux's Food Factory Says:

    I think you should dig it all over and remove those brambles properly. come on man, You are made of tougher stuff that that. This is a challenge, the easy street will dissapoint you in the long run.

    You have experience with the dreaded brambles. I can’t honestly beleive that a few sheets of newspaper and a thick mulch is going to do anything other than slow the growth down temporarily, which will mean the dirty burgers will develop even stronger roots and become an even larger problem down the line.

    I single dug my bramble infested plot, removed all the brambles I could find and built raised beds after clearing the first third of my plot. Well several months on, I’m pulling out, you guessed it, bramble growth from the raised beds. They look happy as punch to have been provided rich compost, manure and newspaper to feed on. If I had just built the raised beds over the top without attempting to remove the worst of it. By now it would have meant they would have taken over again.

    I would at least remove the root balls before considering your next move.



  6. altadenahiker Says:

    Can I make a suggestion? Yes? Thank you. Lay cardboard over the brambles. Stack compost, straw, and alfalfa hay flakes on top of cardboard. (Make it about a foot or more high, which is easy with the flakes.) Water well. That’s it.

  7. Soilman Says:

    Oh God, now I’m horribly ‘conflicted’. The temptation to build up the layers or create raised beds is powerful. But deep down, I’m instinctively suspicious of the ‘easier, softer way’ (an allusion some of you may recognise – and draw the obvious inference about my history). Cazaux: I hate your message, but I fear it’s the correct one. I should get the bloody roots up the hard, old-fashioned way.

    Tell you what, though: I’ll give up if I really can’t stand it.

  8. Cazaux's Food Factory Says:

    In this instance I would say its time to follow your practical thinking and not your heart. You’ll get there, and be happier for it.

  9. Andrew Says:

    Get a proper tool like an azada – brambles are a cinch with one.

  10. glittertrash Says:

    You English allotment types are all about the masochism, I understand. Far be it from me to stand between you and your brambles! I must admit I have never dealt with brambles in my adventures with raised-bed gardening.

    Actually, I am planning to travel to the UK for your summer this year, and one of the things I’m most excited about is checking out allotment gardens. Australian gardening is all about the backyard 1/4 acre block, with the veg patch behind the clothes line. Allotment culture sounds like a far distant thing.

  11. Soilman Says:

    That’s definitely right, Glittertrash; what I need for perfect happiness is a severe lashing down the allotment on a Sunday morning. Best if done with an authentic cat ‘o’ nine tails. Whingeing, as you have understood, is a critical part of Pommy culture.
    Do contact me if/when you come. I’m in the London area (assume you’re visiting London) and like nothing better than boring folk shitless with my allotment!

  12. ryan Says:

    Brambles are quite annoying aren’t they?! I removed several recently and the strength of the roots is immense! I completely understand how tiring it is digging these buggers out! lol

    Keep up the good work!

  13. Simon Kirby Says:

    Raised beds? Pah! I’d be disappointed if you didn’t at least double dig it. It does look a bit heavy though, are you going to manure it?

  14. Soilman Says:

    I’ll definitely have to add something, Simon. I reckon simple compost this year, just to get some humus into it and leaven it a bit. Couldn’t plant anything into it the way it is now.

  15. Rampant_Weasel Says:

    glad you are choosing the traditional way of clearing it soilman, it will be so much more rewarding when u have finished it.raised bed gardening is the modern equivalent of yuppies imo, but then what do i know?
    the best bit with clearing it with spade and fork is the future stories you will get out of it.for instance u could walk over to it and start with ‘of course the amount of brambles in this part of the allotment would be insurmountable to many allotmenteers….’

  16. Pumpkin Queen Says:

    I can’t see what you are all complaining about! He..he..he..

    I took on a plot last year with brambles, bind weed and couch grass.

    Brambles not a problem at all. Glycosphate the plot, then the ones that are still standing dig out by hand. Dead brambles and their roots are easy to remove with a fork, the only weed that is the worst is the dreaded bind weed.

    I have one plot with raised beds and one traditional plot.

    The raised beds win hands down every time, but you must have completed the donkey work first by clearing the plot before adding them.

    Now I spend 4 times more effort on my traditional open space plot than I do my raised bed plot, but I still prefer to have one of each so that the large crops like sweet corn, butternut squash, pumpkins and spuds etc have plenty of room.

  17. Soilman Says:

    Love the suggestion, Rampant_Weasel. Your last sentence is already tripping off my tongue in my imagined conversations with newbie allotmenteers.

    Pumpkin Queen: Round-up is always an option, but one I prefer to avoid – if possible. Also, insane though this sounds, I get a kick out of doing this shit the hard way. Glittertrash (see above) is right: I’m a born masochist.

  18. rich Says:

    If you don’t do it the hard way I won’t get to read your ranting about it. Please don’t deny me one of the few small pleasures in life 🙂

  19. Soilman Says:

    Wouldn’t dream of it, Rich. Any pleasure you derive from my ranting will, I assure you, be dwarfed by my own. I had another crack at the brambles a few days ago and I feel an extended moan coming to these pages very soon. It is agony.

  20. rich Says:

    hooray 🙂