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Thread: Clearing an unkempt, overgrown allotment

  1. #1
    Undercaker is offline Germinator
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    Default Clearing an unkempt, overgrown allotment

    Hello

    I'm a total novice at this so please feel free to treat me as such in your answers!

    I know there are already some threads on here about taking over an overgrown plot with great advice from members, but some specific advice would be greatly appreciated.

    I have just taken over the rent of a plot and it's in pretty bad nick as the previous owner hasn't done any work for at least a couple of years. The debris and rubbish (old pallets, rods, buckets, etc) I can clear or reuse myself. It's knowing what to do with the grass and other weeds I need help on.

    My instinct is that I will have to manually dig up all of the grass by their roots using a fork and get rid of them BEFORE rotavating the soil. Is this correct? Also, once I have removed the weeds manually (don't worry - I'm aware how labour-intensive this will be! I like a challenge though!) do I still need to put a mulch over the soil or will it be fine as I'll have dug the grass up by their roots?

    Ideally I'd like to completely clear the plot of grass and weeds, prepare the soil and start planting straight away. Is this aiming too high? Is manually de-weeding an alternative to mulching, or a prerequisite of mulching? Once the soil has been cleared and rotavated should I then mix in some manure/compost ready for planting?

    Also - can I compost the weeds I've dug up or should I bin/burn them?

    Many thanks in advance for your answers. Looking forward to getting some tip-top advice.

    Dan

  2. #2
    Jay-ell's Avatar
    Jay-ell is offline Welcome To The Jungle
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    Hi Undercaker and welcome to the vine.

    Mulching is in addition to removing the weeds as it helps prevent new weed seeds from germinating and helps prevent moisture loss from the soil.

    If you can cover the bits you aren't working with black plastic, tarpaulin or even several sheets of cardboard then, as you work your way around some weeds will have died off and others will have been weakened.

    What weeds do you have on the plot as we might be able to give more specific information about individual weeds.

    You'll probably find that after you've dug out all the weeds that you don't need the rotavator


    Anyway, I'm just filling space. tip top answers will be along shortly

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  3. #3
    Bigmallly's Avatar
    Bigmallly is offline Think outside the box
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    Hiya Dan & welcome to the Jungle. IMO it'll take years to clear the plot of weeds so being the lazy gardener that I am, I would attack the plot with a strimmer, clear it, mark out any paths that can then be mowered, source a load of cardboard from cycle shops, white goods shops etc, cover the plot with said cardboard, apply a good 6"-9" of "Well Rotted" manure/compost & you're ready to go. The weeds will still come through as the cardboard breaks down but they should be weaker & easier to manage..........I'm almost certain different advice will be posted shortly. Anyways, enjoy your new plot & don't overdo it as it then becomes a chore & you will go off the idea.
    Last edited by Bigmallly; 11-04-2017 at 09:53 AM.
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  4. #4
    Muddy_Boots's Avatar
    Muddy_Boots is offline Rooter
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    Hi Dan

    Welcome and hope you have many years fun with your plot, it may seem daunting looking at the jungle but believe me there is light at the end of the tunnel. As most will say you need to use some form of covering like black plastic, cardboard or anything that will deprive the weeds of light (weed suppressing membrane is not as good for the job IMO) prior to digging.
    Cut the weeds/grass down to ground level using an appropriate tool like a strimmer or brush cutter , I used the latter on the jungle I took on last year and the grass was as high as me in places and I'm 6ft with nettles, docks, brambles and anything else mixed in.
    Cover to suppress any more growth and start digging a trench at one end, move that soil to where you intend to finish so that now you have a row of soil/weeds behind you and an empty shallow trench in front of you.
    Now cut a line along the next row and cut verticle lines so you have it divided so each square is a spade full. Turn the soil over and forward so the weeds are underneath and in the empty row you started with, only remove any obvious big roots like Dock or Dandelion but leave everything else.
    You should now have another empty row with which to turn the next row into, carry on down the plot like this. ONLY dig a max of 6 rows at a time else you may do your back in trying to do too much.

    The weed foliage will all die off being buried and act as a compost for whatever you plant, you should be able to at least get things like spuds in to get something growing plus when you harvest you will also be able to remove the twitch grass roots as well at the same time.

    I have never rotavated my plots because any twitch just gets spread more by doing that so I fork everything after digging with a spade initially.
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  5. #5
    Undercaker is offline Germinator
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    Thank you all so much for your replies. All very helpful indeed and clear and simple for a beginner like me.

    I've been at the plot this morning and done some digging; the way I'm going leans towards Muddy_Boots' idea of turning the grass upside down and leaving it while covering the rest of the soil (going with Bigmally's cardboard idea on that one - cardboard first then compost on top of it, right?)

    Jay-Ell - I think it's all the usual suspects. There's a few different types of grass (couldn't tell you which types, sorry) plus a few dandelions, some dock, nettles, pennywort, burdock, thistles and one or two other ones that I recognise but couldn't name. I'm basically digging everything up and turning them upside down in the hope they will rot down and help my plants. Unless that's totally the wrong thing to do!

    Thanks again so much, guys. Really appreciate you taking the time to help out a rookie.

    D
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    You've had some great advice. I'd just agree with Bigmal's point about enjoying it. And remember you don't have to do it all at once. We took on our half plot three years ago and only cultivated half the first season. Now it's all in production and we've begged some extra space. Good luck!
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  7. #7
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    Zelenina is offline Cropper
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    I think it depends what kind of weeds you have, Undercaker.

    I'm currently clearing a part of my garden that hasn't been cultivated for a long time. The main vegetation there is a mix of couch grass, nettles and a very invasive weedy kind of michaelmas daisy. Those all have creeping roots, and I don't think turning them over would do the slightest bit of good, so I'm trying to dig them all out.

    Fortunately they all have shallow roots that aren't too difficult to remove. But I keep finding bits I've missed that start sprouting again. Rotavating when you've got perennial weed roots would be a disaster because you'd just chop them up and distribute them, and each bit would make a new plant. Digging is also good for removing stones and buried junk, which I'm finding quite a lot of.

    Maybe a combination of methods would be best for you. Dig the parts you want to plant stuff in immediately, and cover the other parts until you can get to them.

  8. #8
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    Muddy_Boots is offline Rooter
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    Just thought I'd show what can be achieved by posting two photos of plot 2 which I took on last July and the latest tonight whilst planting another row of spuds. The 'jungle had not only twitch grass that was higher than me in places and I'm 6ft, but dock, nettles, dandelion, brambles and even tree saplings. I also found a spade, fork, rake, shears, garden hose and even a wheelbarrow hidden in the undergrowth.

    Clearing an unkempt, overgrown allotment-plot2.jpgClearing an unkempt, overgrown allotment-20170411_200543.jpg
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