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Overgrown plot - how to get under control?

Discussion in 'Allotments Discussion' started by AndyS, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. AndyS

    AndyS Gardener

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    Hi,

    I've offered to help a group establish a community allotment. I've just seen the site they have taken on and it's very overgrown with buttercups, dock, grass etc. I am against using glyphosate and the like and would prefer to take an organic approach. However, my time is limited at the moment and it seems like a bad time of year to be trying to dig tough, perennial weeds out of hard soil.

    Raised beds are being built to go on the plot - they will be installed either late this year or early next. In the meantime, what is my best plan of action?

    I was thinking to strim/hoe everything down to ground level and then cover the majority of the plot with visqueen/membrane, and then work on small sections at a time. Would this be a good starting point, and if so how long would people suggest leaving the ground covered to kill the weeds off - would leaving it until around November make sense? Or longer than that? Am I right in thinking this will kill of the foliage and prevent new weeds coming through, but that the dock roots etc will survive under the plastic covering and will still need digging out when we peel it back?

    Any other actions I should be taking/things to crack on with right now?

    Thanks in advance for any pointers,

    Andy

    PS - I was asked if I could borrow a rotavator to tackle it with but I'm thinking this is a bad idea? Won't that just break up all the weed roots and make it even harder to eradicate them? And if the majority of the plot is going to be taken up with raised beds and paths eventually, is rotavating it really beneficial in any way, even once the weeds have been tackled? My thoughts are it would be a waste of time, but keen to learn from more experienced people on here. Cheers.

    IMG_6564.JPGIMG_6565.JPG
     
  2. misterQ

    misterQ Keen Gardener

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    If money, time or man power was no object then I would use those assets to eradicate all weeds and make the ground suitable for growing. I would strim the weeds then level off the ground as much as possible then cover with industrial quality horticultural weed barrier fabric. Then, either build the raised beds directly on top of the fabric (with bark chipping or gravel pathways) or remove the fabric in autumn and plow the ground so that it upturns the turf and exposes the roots to be killed off by the winter cold.

    But, if operating on a shoestring of assets then I would do it like this:

    1) Draw a plan or have a rough idea of where you will place the raised beds, watering point(s) (water butts, long pipe with a series of taps etc), communal herb plot, perimeter fruit trees/bushes, shed, cold frame, large dustbin and compost heap.

    2) Build the compost heap in situ and make it as large as possible - atleast 6x2x1m (LxWxH) with three compartments.

    3) Strim the weeds and place the trimmings into the compost heap. Also take this opportunity to make liquid fertiliser out of the weeds in readiness for next year.

    4) Level off the ground as much as possible.

    5) Mark out the position of the raised beds. Arrange them in a regular pattern with pathways inbetween wide enough for a lawn mower and a wheelbarrow to go down.

    6) Deweed the areas covered by the raised beds. The important weeds to remove are the ones with long tap roots. Line the inside walls of the raised beds with weed fabric for longevity - also line the bottom if you think that persistent weeds will be a problem in the future.

    7) When building the raised beds, incorporate mounting points so that netting hoops (made from blue water pipe) can be easily attached or bamboo canes pushed in to form plant supporting frameworks. Use sections of 28mm copper piping screwed into the outside of the raised beds to create these mounting points.

    If there is access from both sides then make the raised beds at most 2m wide and whatever length you like.

    If access is only from one side then make the bed at most 0.8m - 1m wide.


    At all stages, try and involve the community members as much as possible. This will instill them with a sense of vested interest.

    Set them easily achievable tasks to get them into a routine of physical work (ie gardening).
     
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    • Scrungee

      Scrungee Well known for it

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      I've been taking on adjoining overgrown allotment plots for the last 30 years, up until we were renting 0.66 acres (including orchard, uncultivated areas for storage, structures, etc.), and have used polythene dpm (AKA Visqueen), 'Mypex' woven polypropylene membrane, stable straw mulches and cultivation using a rotorvator.

      'Visqueen' dpm stifles almost everything, but is (haven't checked price in a while) relatively expensive, doesn't last as long a Mypex, and is completely impervious, so if any rigorous perennial weeds emerge underneath it, rainwater will be shed unevenly between planting holes cut through it.

      Mypex permits ingress off water. Don't believe those who say it doesn't, as that's probably caused by their failure to restrict strong perennial weed growth underneath it, or failure to level the surface of ground and ensure close contact between the membrane and soil.

      Stable staw is free (my favourite price), but horse's poo can been full of creeping buttercup seeds.

      Many denounce a rotorvator as something that will simply chop up perennial plant roots into thousands of pieces and make and existing weed situation much worse. I use my rotorvator to cultivate through weeds several times in hot weather and burn up all their roots.

      But as soon as you lift a weed suppresant membrane you'll get a flush of weed seeds, and this can continue for years. Starting as many plants as possible in cell trays, pots, etc., will give them a head start and help prevent smalll seedlings of plants not suitable for growing through membrane being immediately smothered by weeds.
       
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        Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
      • AndyS

        AndyS Gardener

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        Brilliant, thanks for those super-helpful replies @misterQ & @Scrungee.

        I'll print those off and take them to the plot with me this week. I'm keen to get the community group (adults with learning disabilities who live in a residential facility) to lead on the plot design, as it's ultimately them that will be using it, not me.

        Good to know I'm on the right track with the strimming, levelling and covering with membrane, which we'll make a start on this week. I'd not thought of making compost bays for some reason but I have a load of excellent pallets and some fence panelling so we can do that this week too. Is it ok to compost weed matter - dock, buttercup etc - after strimming it? I always tend to avoid weeds in the compost but I guess it's ok so long as you leave out seed heads and perennial root?

        Also never thought of making feed from weeds - I take it you do this in the same way as making a comfrey/nettle tea, and the resultant feed is similar in terms of NPK etc?

        Thanks again for your help.

        Andy
         
      • Scrungee

        Scrungee Well known for it

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      • Steve R

        Steve R Soil Furtler

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        This maybe a good solution for you, have a look at my topic on "No Dig" here on this forum No Dig

        In particular, look at my last few posts on the second page of that topic where I show in photographs how bare ground or ground full of weed can be dealt with using "No Dig".

        The man championing "No Dig" in this country is called Charles Dowding, here is a video showing his garden using No Dig straight onto weeds including the ones you mentioned and bindweed/couch grass too. The garden in the video is 6 months old at time of shooting.



        Good luck !

        Steve...:)
         
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