Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

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PlainQB
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Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 224850Post PlainQB
Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:53 pm

Hello,

Mr. QB and I have just taken over a new allotment (hurrah, it's lovely) and we're getting it ready for the new season. January and February is often the time people take on new allotments so there are probably many other people doing the same. Our new allotment is in a reasonably bad condition with thick turf (including couch grass), brambles and nasty weeds such as dock, dandelion and prickly things. At the moment Mr. QB and I are digging through it pulling up the big bad weeds, peeling back the turf and digging in the little weeds. This can be very daunting and hard work so I'd like to set up a little discussion with tips on how to make this work easier and also what to do, e.g. how do you dispose of large quantities of weeds.

Some things we're doing:

- Small weeds that aren't very robust can be dug into the soil killing them and allowing them to rot into compost.
- Big roots, especially from danelions can be put in a big bucket with water and a lid and left to fully rot.
- Working in a team helps, for example, strong Mr. QB is digging rows with a fork, lifting the soil and braking it into clumps. Puny me is following behind him lifting the loosened weeds out by hand.
- On our other allotment Mr. QB cut the turf into neat squares, carefully stacked them and made a little living bench for us to sit on.

roger ramjet
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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 224854Post roger ramjet
Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:56 pm

If you have a few like minded friends why not organise a digging and weeding party?
I did this with my first garden years ago.
The idea is to roughly mark out the plot in squares say 1 by 1 metre of yard then get each person to choose a square and work on that small section. We hid treasure in one square of a box of chocs as an added incentive. A few bottles of beer or cider makes the party dig go with a swing.

Roger Ramjet

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 224855Post sarahkeast
Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:00 pm

Did my garden this time last year, it hadnt been looked at in years and was a bit of a jungle.

Put carpet down for several months [cleared out of the house !] and cleared and dug it over in Easter hols with the help of my chickens. The carpet had killed of most of the grasses and docks, the rest I painstakingly dug out.

Then built raised beds from scaffold planks, covered the area of each bed with cardboard [packing boxes from the moves] and put loads of sieved and picked over soil and compost in. Previous house had bindweed so knew what to look for there, googled a few other nasties and diligently picked them all out.

More carpet, the old render from outside the house, some mesh stuff all made the paths weedfree. Re-carpeted last weekend, local carpet shop is happy to offload removed carpets to me now and again !

Reasonable crops last year, no significant or problem weeds so worth the torture, boredom and sore wrists/elbows.

Do like the idea of turf squares as a bench, mine usually end up in chicken run.

Good luck.
Sarah :flower:

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225270Post PlainQB
Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:36 pm

A kind soul on the allotment has just given us a humungous dalek composter. We're filling it with nasty weeds with the intention of leaving it for a couple of years till lthey all propperly rot. To help it rot we're putting it in alternating with a thin layer of well rotten manure which is full of little, red, wriggly worms.

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225283Post Big Al
Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:38 pm

FWIW,
I'd be tempted to say sod it and rotovate the lot into the ground for this first year and then plant tatties.

After the rotovating you will then have some workable soil very quick which will invigorate you and as the weeds come back through you will be more ready to takle them as "young" weeds rather than established weeds.

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225305Post grahamhobbs
Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:59 am

Big Al, I've broken in 5 overgrown allotments in my lifetime and never used the method you suggest, but have seen other newcomers do it and give up after a few months when the weeds sprout everywhere, particularly couch grass and bindweed, the roots would now be in a million little pieces and impossible to remove.

Forking over and removing every root you can is long and laborious but pays dividends in the long run. working as team one forking the other picking out the weeds is something me and the missus have done at it certainly speeds things up. Getting friends to help in my experience doesn't.

The main thing about getting the weeds out is to do at the right time, when the soil is not too wet or dry and it crumbles away from the roots most easily. In summer you might need to water the soil the day before and in winter to cover the soil with plastic. If yo live in an area with hard frosts, digging over and then getting out immediately after hard frosts (before it rains) is the best, you can almost rake the roots out.

at all times I'd take the first inch of soil and roots off first.

On areas you can't cope with immediately, you can cover with plastic, carpet, mulch heavily or mow. None will get rid of pernicious weeds completely, but will give some control.

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225315Post oldjerry
Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:45 am

Graham, I think your method is dead right(especially the post frost digging over),but in the long run isn't it easier to build say 3ft high deep beds and carpet or whatever the paths? More outlay,sure, but less time spent on endless weeding year after year,meaning more time to concentrate on the nicer stuff.

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225367Post grahamhobbs
Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:38 pm

Oldjerry, that's exactly what I've been doing today, but you can't cover your whole allotment in them, unless you are a millionaire. Our plot is 26 poles. But I like the raised beds for carrots and some salads. Also after a few years you do get the weeds under control and they don't give you much trouble. It's just the first few years when you think that gardening is just about weeding.

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225379Post Ellendra
Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:33 pm

I'm trying to carve out some veggie patches on my land, which is currently all weeds and grasses. I have the added complications of A: no upper body strength due to neck and shoulder problems, and B: the best spot for this is about 800 ft up a steep hill, with no way of getting a wheeled vehicle through there. Thus, everything used has to be what a 4-year-old could carry in one trip.

What I'm doing is laying down heavy-duty landscaping fabric, letting it sit for a while to smother the weeds, then cutting slots into it and planting through.

Last year the fabric only sat for 2 weeks before I tried to plant. It sort of half worked, there were very few weeds growing through the slots. Unfortunately, there were also almost no veggies growing through the slots. Only 1 pumpkin plant grew to maturity. I think the dead weeds were so thick they formed a solid mat, which kept the seeds from being able to reach both the soil and the sunlight.

This year I'll be hoeing out more before laying down the fabric, and I'll aim for seedlings started at home rather than seeds planted directly. And, there are 4 planting beds where the fabric has been laying all winter, so the weed mat underneath should be good and rotted by now.

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225433Post gregorach
Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:10 am

grahamhobbs wrote:On areas you can't cope with immediately, you can cover with plastic, carpet, mulch heavily or mow. None will get rid of pernicious weeds completely, but will give some control.
Exclusion can work very well if you give it enough time. When I took over my allotment I didn't feel able to cope with the whole plot at once, so I simply covered about half of it with heavy duty PVC and landscape fabric (neither of which I had to buy, fortunately) and ignored it for a full year. That half of the plot is now pretty much entirely clear of equisetum and couch grass... Unfortunately, I can't (yet) say the same for the other half. ;)
Cheers

Dunc

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225459Post grahamhobbs
Mon Mar 07, 2011 2:26 pm

gregorach, yes thick plastic is the best, but surprised it has eliminated equisitum, people have had it come up through concrete.

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 225506Post gregorach
Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:52 am

grahamhobbs wrote:gregorach, yes thick plastic is the best, but surprised it has eliminated equisitum, people have had it come up through concrete.
Yeah, as long as it's still got some life in it (usually because its root system extends past the exclusion barrier, so it's still getting energy) it's remarkably intrusive. The great thing about heavy-duty PVC is that it will lift rather than crack, unlike concrete, so the evil weed can't penetrate it. If you can keep it completely excluded from the light, eventually the damn stuff just runs out of energy and dies. Of course the problem then is preventing recolonisation from outside the cleared area...

It's really quite satisfying to find dead and decaying equisetum roots... I win, you [redacted]! :iconbiggrin:
Cheers

Dunc

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Re: Preparing a brand new, mainly turf and weed, allotment

Post: # 231523Post Geebogs
Tue May 10, 2011 10:25 pm

We too got our allotment this year (well Nov last year really) and it had been left to run wild for well over a year. Luckily the previous owner had covered a large portion of it with a gardening membrane that seems to have kept most nasties at bay. Although the areas that had carpet on them are now thick, matted grass growing out of carpet (and really tough to get up!).

We've done our best to dig over and diligently extract the (mainly) couch grass, bindweed roots and nettles. We are now left with a huge pile of not-really-compostable waste (due mainly to all the bindweed roots) so it'll be several trips to the local recycling centre with maybe a brown bin full (or five) in between!

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