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  • Rotovator advice please

    I have found out that my new plot had been vacant for 10 years and no one wanted it because of the state it was in! . I am determined not to fail. I have strimmed couch grass down to couple of inches and sprayed part of it this week. I have started digging another part myself. I was going for the no dig but don’t think anything would even get a foothold the way it is. A man on the site hires himself and his rotavator out but someone else has told me that a rotavator wouldn’t get through it and I would need to rough dig it first? Any thoughts on either strategy.

  • #2
    A big rotavator will get through any soil as long as it is not full of big boulders, large chunks of cement, concrete blocks or similar.

    The problem is more that rotovating the sort of ground you describe is not a 'one and done' job. To clear weeds etc and get the soil into a fit state for growing veg would require multiple sessions with a rotavator over a season, perhaps 5 or 6 at 10-day intervals depending on how things went. Unless money is no object, this is really only an option if you can afford to buy a decent rotavator, keep it for a year and do the work yourself.

    The other method would be to cover the area with something to exclude light like cardboard and let nature take its course. No green plant can survive more than a year without any light. I daresay others who have practised this no dig method will be along to give their input on how it worked for them.

    Even when you know what you are doing there is often a trade-off between effort, money and time when it comes to practical things like gardening, so there is never one right answer. Just a rough stab at what might work best for yourself.

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    • #3
      Since couch is fairly shallow rooted, you might want to consider simply removing whole turves, complete with 3 inches or so of soil.
      This should remove 90% of the couch grass roots, and few which are left deeper than that should be fairly easy to dig out.
      Stack the couch grass turves face down in an out of the way corner somewhere and cover with black plastic or something similar which will completely exclude light. Leave for 12 months and the couch grass should all be dead and you can spread the soil on your beds again.

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      • #4
        I started my plot from not having been cultivated for a few years and it was covered with couch grass in December 2019.
        I got the soil up in big blocks and where I could I separated the roots from the soil and where it was too wet I built a raised bed with the blocks that were too wet to get the roots out with the green side facing inwards and 3/4 filled it with couch grass and mugwort roots and a layer of steaming horse manure. I then tipped the potting shed latrine in.
        Over the top I added some topsoil and a crop of squashes.
        I got a good crop and when I open up the chamber of pickled weed roots and reveal the contents I will start a new thread with photos of it at all stages. This will be when the next crop of squashes go into the base of it.
        I have started a second one for the second huge batch of weeds.
        Bind weed and creeping thistle have been the worst things to get rid of as they can re-grow from roots in the bed rock.
        Near Worksop on heavy clay soil

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        • #5
          That’s a good idea! Why didn’t I think of that. It took me 3 hours to rough dig a 5x 2 metre block then another couple of hours the next day breaking it down but it’s so matted that it is like turf in places. I started off by trying to gets the roots out but ended up taking matted clumps up. I was going to dispose of them bit by bit but as suggested think I will leave them in a heap at the back for a year or so and then at least I can have some soil to put back and saves me going to the tip. Thanks

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          • #6
            we had a plot like that and the guy who took it on made some tripods out of stout timber and put some heavy duty mesh on it. HE then did what you are doing and justconcentrated on a strip at a time and all the weeds went on the tripods. being off the ground they dried out and he then had a bon fire and burnt them and then worked the ash back into the soil. I've never seen it done before sut it seemed to work.

            Covering the ground will help but it needs to be dense black (SIlage sheet is ideal) as if it like moonlight under the cover it won't kill them off - they need very little light to survive but they won't thrive till you uncover and then they spring back into growth.

            I always used to say to newbies that didnt want to go down the roundup route to cover whith heavy duty black plastic then buy some cheap tubs from the pound shop as big as you like and use these full of compost to grow things like flowers, Spuds, Peas ( the dwarf ones are best) Beans (again Dwarf french or something like Hestia) and Carrots - Amsterday Forcing, early Nanted or Paris Market all work well in tubs. the possibilities are endless. then you can work on a strip at a time and get it really clear and then plant your veggies in for later years and you just fold back the plastic and work on the next bit. Its a marathon not a sprint don't try and do it all this year - you'll end up with a bad back and disapponted. little and often is the way to do it. but just remember tyou need a shed to make drinks in my neighbour when we fist moved in was about 75 and he would go out after breakfast and dig two rows sit down with a mug of tea and smoke his pipe and then get up and repeat and know off at dinner time... he always beat me to finishing and he wasn't knackered ... so I tend to do the same these days although I never took to pipe smoking .... Mrs G did though
            ntg
            Never be afraid to try something new.
            Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark.
            A large group of professionals built the Titanic
            ==================================================

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            • #7
              I'd not recommend round-up or the like, or indeed rotivating.

              Cover in plastic (which will need weighting down) and do a bit at a time. I like to cover my plastic in woodchip to avoid it being damaged by UV light, and it looks nicer. What I did was cover a strip big enough to make a bed, leave it for a year and move it down to the next bit, and then grow on the uncovered. Depends on time etc

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              • #8
                Hello Rose willow. You’ll love your new allotment and don't get disheartened. You have to pace yourself.or it will become.a chore not a pleasure.
                Though I would never rotavate each to their own. But I always notice once done this way the soil seems to look powdery and lifeless. Also you will have chopped up any mean weeds into lots of pieces that will undoubtedly regenerate. Probably chopped up some useful insects and soil life too.
                I took on a plot for flower growing last year and covered half for about 9 months and the remainder of the couch grass practically fell out. The plastic warms up the soil too when you wish to plant up an area as you go.
                I have been trying no dig for some time on my other plots raised beds. It definitely has advantages. I hardly get any weeds. In the autumn I spread a layer veg waste on them then cardboard them rotted manure then soil. Then plastic ( my plot gets very wet so I do not need to put the porous type of covering on there) When uncovered its all gone and I have more soil. Take a bit at a time and cover the rest.as Bikermike suggests.
                The other time saver..raised beds. You don't even need wood. You can just use mounded soil. There’s a lot on you tube about raised beds as well.
                Enjoy your plot. Its one of the best things you’ll ever do for your mental well-being. I am sure many of the other growers will agree.

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                • #9
                  I’ve taken on the nightmare plot next door and have access to a large communal root atop if I need but even I will be going down the cover route for at least a year to help clear the bindweed, brambles and grass on the plot. Really good quality black plastic heavily weighted down. You might have to dig out any escapees trying to get out either side of the plastic. After that remove any visible perennials digging out all the root you can find then layer of cardboard and a thick layer of compost.
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