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  • 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
    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

    New all singing all dancing blog - Jasons Jungle

    ”I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb."
    ― Thomas A. Edison

    “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
    ― Thomas A. Edison

    - I must be a Nutter,VC says so -

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    • #3
      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, 08:53 AM.
      sigpic“Gorillas are very intelligent, but they don't have to be as delicate as chimps -- they can just smash open the termite nest,”
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      • #4
        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.
        The day that Microsoft makes something that doesn't suck ...

        ... is the day they make vacuum cleaners

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        • #5
          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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          • #6
            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
              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.

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              • #8
                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.

                Click image for larger version

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                The day that Microsoft makes something that doesn't suck ...

                ... is the day they make vacuum cleaners

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                • #9
                  You can get a big black bin - put the roots of the weeds into this after you have removed all the soil. Pack it in tight then when a few inched from the top, weight it down with something and add enough water to cover them all then clamp the lid on. The roots will eventually drown, die and rot down - it will stink to high heaven but the root will have turned into a stinky and slimy but nutrient rich plant feed. Add some to your watering can to give your plants a boost.

                  I treated all the bind weed roots this way last year and the year before.

                  You could also back it all into the bin, adding bokashi bran after each layer, jam it in air tight and when it's full cover the top with plastic, pop the lid on and leave it to pickle for a month or two. after it's pickled it can be composted. Done this a few years ago and ended up with some fantastic compost. But you have to get the bran and it's not worth it if you don't make your own for this.

                  Or lay the roots out to dry in the sun will they're dry and dead then compost - but you have to be 100% certain that they're dead.

                  New all singing all dancing blog - Jasons Jungle

                  ”I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb."
                  ― Thomas A. Edison

                  “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
                  ― Thomas A. Edison

                  - I must be a Nutter,VC says so -

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hi Undercaker and welcome to the Vine
                    I'm not going to offer any advice - you've already had plenty - but I do have a question for you!
                    Have you brought us Cake? We like Cake..................and photos

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Muddy_Boots View Post
                      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.

                      [ATTACH=CONFIG]72658[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]72659[/ATTACH]
                      I think I could identify the two main weed grasses you had at the beginning. It looks like crested dogstail (Cynosurus Cristatus) and Yorkshire Fog (Holcus Linatus)

                      Twenty odd years ago I had to do visual identifications at college and still remember a few.
                      My Majesty made for him a garden anew in order
                      to present to him vegetables and all beautiful flowers.- Offerings of Thutmose III to Amon-Ra (1500 BCE)

                      Diversify & prosper


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                      • #12
                        My only suggestion is keep a photographic record of your work on the allotment, It helps when you hit the wall and feel like your not getting there as fast as you would like, pace yourself and enjoy it.

                        Here was my first plot when I took it over in 2012

                        Click image for larger version

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                        You can follow the progress on this one and my new one on my diary / blog
                        Last edited by Cadalot; 12-04-2017, 06:10 AM.
                        sigpic
                        . .......Man Vs Slug
                        Click Here for my Diary and Blog
                        Nutters Club Member

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                        • #13
                          Snadger, on our plot we mostly worry about the Agrostis stolonifera....

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                          • #14
                            I'm not sure turning the grass over,covering with cardboard & (how much compost?) on top,would allow any planting this year? I removed 14 x 4 foot of grass last March,piled it on the side border,its taken a year but now turned into lovely stuff,a few woodlice & worms have been busy in there,but it's lovely fine loam,I'd pile it upside down somewhere,not on the bed you want to plant in,some of the grass re-roots itself.
                            Last edited by Jungle Jane; 12-04-2017, 10:48 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Rather refreshing to read advise that is not going to damage the soil fertility or environment. I have read many posts that tend to recommend weedkillers for this scenario.

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