Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

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innerhippy
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Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274554Post innerhippy
Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:02 pm

Dear Ishers

Mr Innerhippy and I took over an allotment last autumn after 5 and a half years on the waiting list, and were delighted. The weeds were shoulder high, but this did not daunt us, we're in it for the long haul and are happy to do things bit by bit.

Over the winter, we admittedly didn't do much, partly because the ground was frozen for much of it, partly due to time pressures (3 children under 5) and other excuses and reasons.

This spring we started clearing bits, and so far the spuds have gone in and are doing nicely, and the rest is in the growhouse at home waiting to go in. So far so good. But here's the thing.

Under all the shoulder high weeds, it appears that there was lurking a thick carpet of mare's tail, couch grass and bindweed. The ground we dug over for the spuds is thick in new growth, and any attempt at digging has got us mired in tangles of stems and roots. It took hours to clear a small patch of ground for the spuds and still the weeds grow relentlessly.

Now we're pretty organic-loving hippy types, and we'd prefer to feed our little hippies on chemical-free nosh. But how on earth do we get rid of the weeds?

We had considered a flame thrower, but that won't help underground. And might annoy the neighbours. Any other, less dramatic suggestions would be most gratefully received.

I now realise why nobody has stayed on this plot for more than a year in the past decade...

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diggernotdreamer
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274555Post diggernotdreamer
Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:36 pm

This is what I would do, having taken over a very badly neglected allotment patch, had the same stuff. I chopped everything down with my rip hook and piled it up, covered everything over with flattened cardboard boxes from the local shop, you can use newspaper too if you can get hold of a lot. Ask your neighbours for their grass mowings (if you know they are weedkiller etc free) and sprinkle the mowings over the paper. You can then get string and sticks and mark out beds, put the stuff you have cut down inside the bed, put some more mowings on top and you now have a place you can dib holes into and put your transplants through. Ok, you will get some bindweed, docks, mares tail etc popping up, but keep a pair of scissor handy and snip off the tops, you can chuck it onto the beds it will wilt down on the top, as your transplants grow, they will start to shade out a lot of the stuff. This will give you an opportunity to get your stuff in and as the ground is covered, it will start to kill off stuff underneath. If you want, get some straw and put it down on the paths for you to walk on. This is the way I start my plots, always have, make sure your soil is always covered with something, plant, mulch etc,

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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274556Post silly_sammy
Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:32 pm

Excellent! I'm having the same problem with my garden. It was horribly neglected and I thought I'd never be able to do it without chemicals!

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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274557Post becks77
Mon Jun 03, 2013 2:10 pm

Brilliant answer, I also laid old carpet (not rubber backed) over my allotment and that suppressed a lot over the winter then it rots down as you plant through into next season, same principle :)
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274558Post diggernotdreamer
Mon Jun 03, 2013 2:32 pm

Yes Becks, carpet is great for weed smothering, I got hold of a load once and did the mulching out thing, in addition to not using rubber backed carpet, make sure it is 100% wool because if it is a mix of wool and nylon, you will end up with a load of nylon string all over the place. I really hate the use of plastics on allotments, no-one ever gets rid of it afterwards and it flaps around or sits in piles. My brother had a bicycle shop and got huge flat bits of card that the bikes arrived in, he was glad to give them to me. The other thing I do is put newspaper down on the surface of the beds, two sheets thickness is sufficient, wet well and add a sprinkle of mowing just to keep them weighed down, plant through with transplants, onion set, etc and it will stay relatively weed free for the season, in the tunnel, I just put down the paper and wet it, plant my cut and come again salad crops through, it really keeps the leaves clean, my customers always comment on how clean the salad leaves are

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kit-e-kate
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274561Post kit-e-kate
Mon Jun 03, 2013 5:25 pm

I love the newspaper idea! I'm definitely going to give that a go. Thanks! : )

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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274570Post Flo
Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:08 am

Old carpet is possibly not a good idea as most of them are full of chemicals which will leach into the soil. And it's a sod to remove if weeds grow through it or it disintegrates.

Most weeds take time to remove. A digging fork removes a lot of stubborn rooted things like bindweed where you need to get all the roots out so that it doesn't come back. Don't compost bindweed roots, dock roots, dandelions in any form as they keep growing, or nettle roots. Unfortunately none of these rot and you just spread the problem out again as you use the compost.

Couch grass and bindweed you can dig out over time if you are really patient and persist. Bag up and bin or burn as they don't rot. Mare's tail (actually it's horsetail as mare's tail is the aquatic form) you can't dig out as the roots go so far down. Cardboard, paper will keep it out of sight but won't get rid of it. I fear that this is the one time where you will have to resort to chemical warfare.

One of the allotments on my site has the same problem and people have resigned from it regularly over the years. The committee has now decided that action is required and are considering the options here. The Kurtail is exceedingly expensive but is supposed to be the most effective of the selection.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Oh and the old saying that one year's weeds is 7 years seeds is very true. Time and patience are the only things that help.

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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274571Post becks77
Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:29 am

Thanks DND I forgot to mention the wool bit. Flo the carpet did rot down very well and left little to no residue, of course I couldn't see any leeching chems but the veg came up well so thats all I can go on. :iconbiggrin:
In my little patch in the garedn I just keep on at the weeds and hope they loose heart after a while, we cn only hope :iconbiggrin:
All the best
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274573Post Dr.Syn
Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:00 am

I fully endorse all of the above. When I took over an allotment (is it really law that a plot cannot be rented out until the weeds are waist high?) I was given the same advice from the more experenced allotmenteers. AND IT WORKED!!!
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274579Post diggernotdreamer
Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:08 pm

Of course the perennial weeds will not go away through mulching alone. Annual weeds will be mostly smothered out, you will get horse tail, docks and nettles coming up, but once the mulch is down, things look a lot better, and crops can be grown this year. You will feel a bit more positive about your plot, at the moment everything looks a bit daunting. You can compost the tops of all the weeds, probably best not to include seed heads. I have just cultivated an area of meadow this year and put the lot down to spuds, using my mulching methods. I have had docks coming through, but they are very leggy and I just delve down and pull as much out as I can, eventually the roots are loosened and the whole thing will come up. Horsetail is not a disaster, I had loads on my allotment. By mulching and cutting off the tops as they came through I gained some kind of control, but if you use transplants, you are steps ahead of the weeds. I found that once the top of the horsetail had been cut, that one did not come back again, it seems to have one go at making a top, but the top (discard any black bit which is root) is full of minerals so every cloud. Dock leaves, nettle tops, any foliage all has great nutrients which can be composted or added to the mulch materials. Every time you defoliate, you are weakening your enemy. You will find the roots will start to become easier to remove, by pulling them up. I have NEVER used weedkiller, had some really awful allotments over the last 20 years and managed to control the problems with the methods described. Allotments are often full of retired gents who have plenty of time to hoe and till, and everything looks very immaculate, they always have lots of advice, some good, some you nod and smile and then just ignore them. As for old carpets, we are quite happy to have them in our houses, lay on them, put our children on them etc, don't the chemicals come out then as well? I am very interested in what chemicals are in these old carpets and how they would behave once composted down, not that I have carpets, but just if I am given any in the future.

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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274580Post boboff
Tue Jun 04, 2013 1:11 pm

If you want weed free quickly then Glysophate is really good, I know I know, but it's allot less work.

Use cardboard on what you think you can plant this year and spray the other bit, by the time you plant in it any nasties will be washed away.......

Or Glysophate and the cover with carboard or black membrane or carpet.....

There is some science that as soon as the chemical hits the plant it becomes an organic compound, but I wouldn't argue that point, as it goes the same as weeding, I can't be arsed!
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274589Post doofaloofa
Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:13 pm

Here is my plan for toatal weed annialation!

First off I would be patient. It is only natural to want to grow every thing you can in a new plot, but I say first year stick to spuds, The rest of the plot mulch (either organic matter as DnD suggested or black plastic), or put to lawn. Few weeds can survive constant mowing. You will have plenty of weeding to do on the spud plot, but consider this a clearing crop, and direct all your efforts into keeping this area spotless.

After the spuds are lifeted you could follow with leeks after the earlies, and Meteor peas, or Aquadulce Broad beans after the maincrop (dont forget to lime). Alternatively cover with your chosen mulch over winter. Pull back the covers in spring and you will have bare, dry, warm tillable soil

Year 2, you should have one clean plot for legumes say, and then set your spuds in the next section of virgin allotment

After 3-5 years of this slow progress your plot should be ship shape

I like DnD's mulching tips, you will increas the fertility and organic matter in your plot no end, but they require dilligence and comitment. Forget the plot for a fortnight, and you may be back to square one. It also makes a great habitat for slugs. I prefer the black plastic, Infact I would consider planting the spuds under the plastic if I though my time would not allow the constant weeding that may be required

Black plastic also acts as a pest trap. Pull it back once a week and cut/collect all the pests (slugs, leather jackets etc) that are hiding there

Good luck and happy weeding
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274591Post doofaloofa
Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:24 pm

On composting perenial weed roots...

Spread them out to dry for a few weeks, turning regularly, and they should compost away grand

The carpet makes a great surface to dry on, but mypex is the best
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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274593Post clanpowell
Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:32 pm

We've got what is essentially a meadow (With all manner of grasses and perennial weeds) that we've turned into our veg patch. It's hard work but we double dug as per the John Seymour method. Nothing has grown back, in terms of weeds except some annuals. Is that worth a go? I know there are some arguments against in terms of soil structure and disturbing the associated balances but it's worked for us and I lost 1 1/2st in the process!

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Re: Weeds, weeds and more weeds. Help!

Post: # 274595Post diggernotdreamer
Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:04 pm

I don't think there is a wrong or right way to do any sort of gardening and growing. It all depends on what time, stamina and method you prefer. I do what I do because it works for me and I hate digging, some people like digging, some people dig because that is the way they have always done it. I tried it once and didn't like it, but then I only had one child as well :iconbiggrin:

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