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advice please - my first allotment is very overgrown
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evo



Joined: 09 Aug 2005
Posts: 13
Location: West London
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:09 pm    Post subject: advice please - my first allotment is very overgrown  Reply with quote    

Hello

Iíve just got my 1st allotment and Iím really excited. Only problem is itís massively over grown and I donít know where to start. I have been told that itís best to burn the weeds off and then cover it in black plastic all winter. Is this the best thing to do? Is there anything I could do to speed up the process so I can plant stuff sooner than next year? Itís a 10 rod plot and there is no one on the plot next to it.

Thanks

JB



Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 7748
Location: 91į N
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

What weeds have you got there? and how overgrown is "massively" overgrown. I've just got an allotment with a mixture of grass, thistle etc weeds and have decided to tackle it slowly by hand as its too late in the year to get lots planted, or rather I don't want to have an entire allotment of kale and late carrots. Also tackling by hand allows me to remove the roots. It sounds like hard work but 3 or 4 square meters each time I'm there and it should be done by autumn (although my allotment is only half the size of yours)

Last edited by JB on Tue Aug 09, 05 1:28 pm; edited 1 time in total

judith



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Hi Evo and welcome to the site.

Unfortunately clearing the plot is one of those things you just have to do methodically, one step at a time. The advice you have been given is sound, and will stop the plot getting any worse because new plants have seeded themselves there.

My advice would be to cover the entire plot, and then just tackle one small area at a time. Dig it over carefully, making sure that you get out as many weed roots as possible. and then dig in some compost, horse manure, wood ashes or whatever you have to hand. You could then plant some overwintering brassicas or fast-growing salads perhaps in that area, just to encourage you to keep going.

It is a hard job, but it should never be this hard again! If you were to just rush in there with a rotovator, all you would do would be to chop up the roots of the perennial weeds, which will make weeding next year a total nightmare.
Do it right first time and you won't regret it, I promise

judith



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Oh, and I would use something "breathable" like several layers of cardboard, rather than black plastic if at all possible. You can then dig it into the ground next year when it has been broken down by the weather.

JB



Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 7748
Location: 91į N
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Oh also going slowly by hand allows me to find a few treasures amongst the weeds which might be worth keeping. So far I have found rhubarb, raspberries and the inevitable potatoes hiding amongst the thistles.

cab



Joined: 01 Nov 2004
Posts: 32429

PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Evo... That's a lot of ground to clear by hand, but that slow methodical approach isn't a bad one. I might do that in your position, but there are also some shortcuts you can take.

May I ask what kind of overgrown we're talking about here? Is it annual weeds (fat hen and suchlike), perennials (nettles, bindweed, etc) or are we looking at tree saplings, bramble, etc? How I'd tackle all three would be very different!

evo



Joined: 09 Aug 2005
Posts: 13
Location: West London
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks for everyoneís replies. I have no idea what the weeds are; Iím a complete (but enthusiastic) novice.

I think they are long high grasses and there are brambles or something else woody too.

I think there is a gooseberry bush too which I would like to keep.

My boyfriend says he will help me with the weeding and we have access to a strimmer and a rotovator.

What else will we need?

Thanks

cab



Joined: 01 Nov 2004
Posts: 32429

PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Brambles... Oh, that'll be fun

Cut them back with seceteurs, dig them up and burn them. But make sure they're not something more interesting; are you sure they're not tayberries, raspberries or loganberries?

Have a good look at anything woody; might be currants or another fun fruit. Look out for old asparagus beds, and keep your eye open for self seeded goodies like leeks, salsify, leaf beet, and pretty much anything else. And remember that a lot of those weeds might be good eating too

Other than that, dig out the biggies, rotivate in autumn (I see no advantage in doing that so soon), clear a bit by hand now for some autumn and winter crops (if you can get a spade into it), and go from there. Rotivate it and cover, say, half or two thirds of it with manure if you can get some in autumn, before the frosts come, and let the frost and worms help you out. Come Spring you'll have to break up the ground a bit more and rake it, take out some more weeds if need be, and prepare seed beds.

Gertie



Joined: 08 Jan 2005
Posts: 1638
Location: Yorkshire
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Hi evo - we just got our allotment about February of this year, we've only cleared part of it and planted bits and pieces - we have chickens on part of it as well.

We started off well with good intentions and had our plot strimmed, cleared and ploughed by a local farmer. Parts of it are as nearly as bad as before, well, not quite!

I've started clearing off from one end and am putting sheeting over it to try and keep weeds at bay. Best bit of advice I can give you is don't do too much too soon you will just sicken yourselves and give yourselves bad backs to boot

JB



Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 7748
Location: 91į N
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

... and find something, anything will do, to plant as soon as possible in part of the plot so that you have something productive to see and remind you why you're ging to all this bother.

Gertie



Joined: 08 Jan 2005
Posts: 1638
Location: Yorkshire
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Good point, JB. We planted loads of potatoes, onions and cabbages.

Lozzie



Joined: 25 May 2005
Posts: 2595

PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Hello there Evo - I too have just got an allotment, and I found these two articles VERY useful -

http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Growing_your_own/Planning_your_allotment/

and also

http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Growing_your_own/Crop_rotation/

We are using hand-held grasshooks to slowly but surely clear our way through, and instead of cardboard we have old bits of hessian-backed carpet down as a weed-surpressant. It doesn't look too glamourous, but it is cheaper than the black polythene ...

We've found a handy (and local) supply of well-rotted horse manure to dig in as and when we get to that point.

Next thing we need is somewhere to store our tools and wheelbarrow, and compost bins (ordered!).


dougal



Joined: 15 Jan 2005
Posts: 7184
Location: South Kent
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

The real problem is with the perennial weeds. Things like ground elder and bindweed, the brambles and many nettles will happily regrow from any bits of live root left in the soil.
Rotovating will break up the roots, and in so doing will spread, rather than cure, the problem.

You can either remove the roots physically or use a weedkiller.
Even blanketing to exclude all light for many months will not kill many of these things.
Physical removal is one heck of a job...

Glyphosphate, a systemic weedkiller, is absorbed through the leaves and the plants growth process spreads the poison to kill roots and all.
Its not terrible stuff, really, and any overspray is rendered harmless on contact with the soil.
It is most effective when the weed is growing most vigorously.
So I'd suggest you might cut things back, water it, and spray what sprouts.
For tough weeds, you may have to repeat a couple of times at fortnightly intervals...
Brambles have tough leaves and dont absorb the stuff very well. Mix in a little wallpaper paste and the stuff sticks wher you *paint* it...!
Even the late Geoff Hamilton, a great advocate of organic gardening, reckoned that the use of Glyphosphate to initially clear a plot was perfectly acceptable.
You might think of covering areas *after* you think they are clear, if you are not going to plant crops immediately. An alternative would be to plant a "green manure".

Once you've got started on weed clearance, your thoughts may well turn to soil conditioning, and whether lime, gritty sand or just loads of manure will be needed...

Gertie



Joined: 08 Jan 2005
Posts: 1638
Location: Yorkshire
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Lozzie wrote:

We are using hand-held grasshooks to slowly but surely clear our way through, and instead of cardboard we have old bits of hessian-backed carpet down as a weed-surpressant. It doesn't look too glamourous, but it is cheaper than the black polythene ...




I've been using the bags our horse feed comes in, it's that woven stuff.

judith



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 05 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Good advice Dougal.
There might not be enough growing season left to completely eradicate something like a large patch of nettles or the dreaded bindweed, but it will at least give a good headstart for next year.

And those roots still need to be dug out IMO - just in case!

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