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  • just got an allotment
  • xherbivorex
    Free Member

    hello. so, as the title says, i’ve obtained an allotment. never had one before, and basically the plot i’ve been given looks like an unruly lawn right now, it’s totally overgrown with what appears to be almost entirely grass and dandelions, but from what i can see there’s nothing more insidious growing in it at the moment (the site itself generally is in very good order and the secretary told me it’s all very well managed so they have no problems with dock or horsetail on empty plots).
    obviously i need to work it asap, i have a 3 month probation period in which they’ll keep an eye on me to make sure i’m actively using it- what’s the best way to get it into usable condition? can i just break the ground and turn the grass and it’ll rot down, and remove the dandelions into the compost bin, or should i remove all the grass too? and is there any point in trying to plant anything that’ll grow for this year? there are no restrictions on what can be grown on the plot that i’m aware of (within reason!)…

    Free Member

    Yes, turn it over. No need the remove all the grass. We got our first allotment last year and the seasoned gardeners have been guiding us. They seem to all do it this way, and make it look easy too.

    Free Member

    Divide plot into four (ish):

    1. Turn it over and get some spuds in – it’s slightly late, but they’ll catch up. They’ll (the spuds) do most of the hard work for you.

    2. You could weed and rake a patch to grow salads in – make sure you get your rows straight, they’re watching!

    3. Peas, runner beans and the like will possibly do OK if they don’t get eaten before they germinate.

    4. Cabbages and calabrese (or sprouting broccoli if you like faff).

    Next year just move everything round one – instant crop rotation.

    You could start on the asparagus bed ready for next month if you are feeling the long term love. I never bothered…

    Edit – don’t forget it’s supposed to be fun – sit on it and drink tea if that takes your mood. If you can’t be bothered digging, bung some old carpet down to smother the weeds.

    Free Member

    Having just dug up a 3x3m square of my lawn (50/50 grass/dandelion ratio) for a vegetable patch, I can make the the following observations;

    Lifting 9m2 of turf is a job for a turf lifter, and even that is still reasonably hard work as the dandelions make pretty good anchors.

    You cant ‘just fork it over’ as the the top 6-9″ are apparently sold masses of soil held together with about 75% root material.

    It’s easier to cut rows and crosses with a shovel before you turn try and turn it over with a fork.

    You will have to go through and chopping it up more with a shovel.

    Its a reet bugger (soil type and lawn-ess dependant.)

    Dig in some manure / compost / old grow bags etc at this point while your churning it up so you don’t have to do it again later…

    Hire a tiller / rotivator ( I wish I had).

    Free Member

    This excellent book might be of interest?

    (It’s not about allotment-keeping, in particular, just full of useful info and really easy to read…)

    Full Member

    Remove topsoil to 5 inches, sand base, wooded edges.
    Wacker plate, block paving (your colour choice, natch..)

    Deckchairs, hot tub, old pallets (think its 7 needed), on end, screwed together then add top to make a nice bar.


    Full Member

    If you want to control the weeds properly use a Glyphosate based weedkiller which will kill roots as well as leaves. A month in you can dig and plant. You need to seriously reduced the viable weed material in the soil, other methods will suppress but the weeds will still be there when you remove the carpet etc.

    Free Member

    As an allotment holder, I urge you not to go hell for leather on the first weekend and then not turn up for the rest of year. My allotment is surrounded by people who do this; then never turn up, each year will be different so they say. I would section the areas and clear those first the old fashioned way with a fork and a sack to dispose of the weeds and grass as if you just turn it over the grass will yellow and die but you are still left with a mass of grass roots. I would not compost them as they generally hibernate and do not die. Our allotment rules state that you are not allowed to put carpet on the plot. Aldi currently have a weed mat if you want to put one down as you dig just to control as you prepare the plot. As I cleared the sections I would then start planting so you could get some potatoes and onions in – these can be picked up now fairly cheap from B&Q and Wilkos at the moment. I would also start planting some seeds and putting them on the windowsill to get them started ie lettuce, spring onions, leeks, courgettes, peas, broad beans etc. You can still grow a lot of seeds now as the weather has been fairly cool so plants are a little behind on germination. Keep an eye out on freecycle for excess tomato plants that people are giving away. This year I gave away approx 10 small rhubarb crowns. Attend local fairs/plant sales/car boots to get peoples excess plants etc.
    Just enjoy the plot and the produce – I find it very relaxing and therapeutic and of course the fruits and veg is an advantage.
    Then in Autumn start buying seeds when they are reduced ready to plant for next year!

    Free Member

    Was it your grandfather’s allotment? Watch out for your neighbour encroaching and trying to take it over!

    Free Member

    some good info/advice here, thanks guys (and some useless too, but it wouldn’t be stw without it!)

    i think i have my work cut out clearing it, probably gonna cut the grass back first so i can see a bit more clearly what i’m dealing with when it comes to getting it ready for planting…

    Full Member

    I’ve cleared and cultivated 2 allotments plus a few gardens from a grassy/weedy state, so think I am qualified to comment! If it’s normal grass you should be able to dig the top off, stack it, and then eventually it will compost down or at least wither enough that you can shake the soil off. If it’s couch grass, you can stack it but expect to burn the remains once the stack dries out enough to shake the soil off. Dig grass like this out one strip at a time, expect your back to hurt! Once you’ve got the top layer off, take a fork over it and remove every scrap of root that you find. Hoe, rake, then fork again. Repeat until you don’t find any more roots. It’s a pig, but if you do it you’ll only be hoeing little weeds out rather than having thistles and dandelions right where you can’t dig them out without trashing your veg/straws patch etc.

    Weed suppressant is ok for keeping the rest of the plot from going wild while you are digging out the clear strips, but as you roll back the sheet keep going with the digging out – if you just dig it over and put the top into the ground the weeds will soon sprout again. If you’re definitely not going to get the whole plot dug over this spring/early summer, imagine a square metre, dig a bucket sized hole in the middle, put manure in the bottom, almost fill in with soil, put the suppressant down over the top and cut a small cross where your hole is. Plant a courgette plant. Repeat to fill the area- courgettes want about 1sqm per plant and will love these conditions.

    It’s well worth planting rows of annual flowers between the veg. Good for attracting helpful insects, looks pretty, and you can rock up everywhere you go with lovely bunches of flowers, making you very popular (free chard is only popular the first time you offer it!)

    Enjoy! I am so jealous!

    Free Member

    Andy, I’ve a portable rotavator your more than welcome to borrow..

    Full Member

    Look up “no dig” gardening (aka “no till” if you’re a farmer).

    Basicly all those roots, both living and dead, are doing good work in the soil. As are all the tunnles made by worms and bugs. Digging destroys all that.

    The downside to that is the need for weed supressing methods if you can’t just dig it over. If glyphosphate doesn’t appeal you can spread clear plastic sheet over the soil and let the heat of the sun sterilise it. Then ongoing you just keep things growing so weeds don’t, stuff like beet over the winter to cover the ground.

    If you do dig, you bring berried seeds to the surface, and the seeds can live for years, so thats years of digging before they stop growing…….

    Free Member

    good info all, ta! not much progress made, i’ve measured up (17.5m x 4.5m) and begun to plan the layout, and bought a spade and fork but that’s about all so far! gonna borrow a cordless strimmer to get the grass down to a more manageable level, and then i’ll be better able to see what i have to go at.
    it’s rather fortuitous timing as i’d been thinking of getting rid of the shed in my back yard (left by the previous owner of my house) in favour of an asgard bike store, but since the shed’s in perfectly good nick then i’m gonna relocate it to the allotment instead of disposing of it entirely, so that’s good. stick some guttering on it, and a water butt too- happy days!

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