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Thread: Our Allotment - Guidance Sought Please

  1. #1
    Helgalush's Avatar
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    Default Our Allotment - Guidance Sought Please

    Sorry if this is a bit long-winded but we could just do with a little bit of guidance related to our allotment.

    We got a new allotment a few months ago, but with the rain and one thing and another (health problems mainly) we havenít been able to get up as much as we would have liked so far. Of course with all the rain all the grass and weeds have been having a jolly good time without us so it was getting a bit shamefully overgrown.

    We started to try and make a few Ďlazy bedsí so that we could have a little bit to plant in to this year while we take a longer-term approach with the rest. The problem is that I think the ground has been ploughed in the past and so itís very uneven and compacted. Even the small bits we have dug over (and dug again) are still very compacted with clods of grass. Where we have lifted soil to make the beds there is a bit of standing water, so I donít know if drainage is a problem or if itís just literally the amount of rain we have had.

    So my question is: what is the best way of going about improving the soil and its structure?

    We like to grow organically so are very reluctant to use any kind of weed killer to clear the surface stuff, and ideally we would like to use the no-dig method. At present we have tried to strim off the surface grass and weeds and we have a few big tarpaulins to cover as much as can. We are also trying to save as much cardboard as we can get our hands on to start mulching the beds down. However as we have only just started, we donít have homemade compost yet to put down underneath/on top, as Charles Dowding recommends in his No-Dig bookÖ.so another question is, is it worth buying some in? How much would this cost, and where do people get it in volume from?

    Are we just making things hard for ourselves and wasting time when there would be a more Ďefficientí way of doing things? I am reluctant to use a rotovator because I know they can shop up perennial weeds, causing bigger problems. I know there are split opinions on this though. I think we have resigned ourselves to not getting much from the allotment this year, although maybe some winter salads or veg might be possible later on, and are keeping in mind that this is a long-term thing for us. However will the allotment association soon get annoyed with us that we arenít actually growing anything yet? We have good plans in mind and are committed to it but its just taking longer than we thought.

    Sorry again this is so long but any help is much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Feral007's Avatar
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    Pity you have had health problems just when you got the allotment.
    I made a no dig garden last spring (here) by mowing, putting down cardboard on one half and thick newspapers (from the newsagents on a monday - they had them all tied up to go back and I took them instead) and then used hay, compost, and some left over dirt from elsewhere. It work great. Not everything came up, but we'd put in so much there wasn't room for it all anyway.

    Another way is to solarise the weeds by putting down black plastic for 3-4 weeks and that kills the weeds. If they are tall it's best to mow them first so they are flatter. Then you can leave them there and do a no dig over them. If you raise the height by no-dig garden or raised beds then the drainage should be improved as well. Best of luck. I'm sure you'll have so many ideas from here you won't know what to try first
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    Ali

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feral007 View Post
    Pity you have had health problems just when you got the allotment.
    I made a no dig garden last spring (here) by mowing, putting down cardboard on one half and thick newspapers (from the newsagents on a monday - they had them all tied up to go back and I took them instead) and then used hay, compost, and some left over dirt from elsewhere. It work great. Not everything came up, but we'd put in so much there wasn't room for it all anyway.

    Another way is to solarise the weeds by putting down black plastic for 3-4 weeks and that kills the weeds. If they are tall it's best to mow them first so they are flatter. Then you can leave them there and do a no dig over them. If you raise the height by no-dig garden or raised beds then the drainage should be improved as well. Best of luck. I'm sure you'll have so many ideas from here you won't know what to try first
    Thank you for the advice, much appreciated, sounds like you did great with your no-dig garden. I didnt think of using the strimmed off grass/weeds as a mulch with the cardboard and also wasnt thinking about newspapers either. I hope the tarpaulins we have put down will work as well as black plastic.

    We have been up again today and laid some cardboard, probably 4 beds worth, but not compost/mulch really to put on it, except a very small amount of spent compost I had saved. Our rabbits are churning out plenty of organic matter to get the compost bins going.

    With my health, it has been a pity it worsened at the same time, its a pre-existing condition so it was always going to make me a bit slower than many, but unfortunately its been exacerbated by a couple of things but feel I am coming out the other end of it again now, so hopefully can make up for lost time a bit now

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    Well the thing with gardening is.....if you don't plant it this year, there's always next year! And there is things for different seasons. We are persisting with a few little area's of vege's during winter just to see what happens. Maybe do a bit of research first and find what is easy and hardy that you like?
    I'm finding the herb garden a bonus atm - it seams to just grow itself. I was lucky last year that someone nearby had some low quality lucerne hay so I got as much as I could afford and it was good. Only a few bits of grass coming thru now in winter. Have been reading a few books by a local gardener and her idea is that it must be something that you like (to eat or see) and it must be easy or you won't enjoy it enough to persist. So I'm not growing anything finnicky!
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    One bit of old folklore wisdom says to plant tomatoes when the soil is warm enough to sit on with bare buttocks. In surburban areas, use the back of your wrist. Jackie French

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    Thank you Feral, I am trying to bear in mind that hopefully the work now will pay off in the long-term, just feeling a bit of pressure to get some of the plot 'sorted' and growing veg asap, as I don't want the allotment association to think we aren't using it properly. And I also wanted reassurance that what we are doing is OK, and will work to some extent.

    Thank you for the tips about what to grow - I have been growing at home, mainly in pots/containers, for a few years, the problem is I have a tendency to want to run before I can walk so bought a load of seeds and currently have a backlog of seedlings and nowhere for them to go! Lol. Still, its all a learning curve for 'next time', and hopefully this time next year we will have some good ground to get lots in.

    I am hoping that in a few months, if it has all mulched down and the soil is looking good, we might be able to get some winter leaves and some over-wintering veg in...that's the plan for now anyway.

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    No.1, don't let the weeds get any worse: deadhead them before they can set seed (use shears, leave the choppings on the soil as a mulch)



    cover what you can, dig over the rest

    Have you started anything in modules? If not, do so, if you can: it's very satisfying to get plants put out. I'd recommend kidney (French) beans, if you like them, and squashes, because they both cover a lot of ground and are fairly self-sufficient once in
    Last edited by Two_Sheds; 10-06-2012 at 05:39 PM.
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    alldigging is offline Early Fruiter
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    The thing that will annoy plot neighbours is weeds on your plot that will spread to theirs.

    Can you rope any friends in to help too?
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    Thank you Two Sheds. My husband has been up and strimmed two thirds ish of the plot, maybe more, and I think we have roughly half of it presently covered. From now on we will save the clippings from that.

    I have some bean seedlings - is it still possible to sow some squash now? If so I can get some of that on the go too.

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