overgrown allotment, where to start?

(36 Posts)
howiwonder Thu 01-Aug-13 20:34:55

we have recently acquired an allotment which i was initially thrilled about but now slightly nervous. its overgrown but i dont think its too scary, just long big grasses and weeds but not brambles or anything.

so we are procrastinating about getting started, we have a really hectic few weeks with holidays and visitors etc so DH is telling me we will just have to leave it til Sept. We are teachers so we will back at work then (although im part time) so I dont think thats a particularly good idea either. Also Im itching to make a start!

My question is - what should we do to make a start, especially as we only have a couple of days next week free and then we are away on and off til late aug. my thoughts were to hire a strimmer and cut it all back at least? or will this just grow immediately back if we dont touch it again for a couple of weeks? there seem to be varying ideas on rotavators when i search online, some say its a good thing to do and others say not to. i have also read about covering it up with carpet to kill weeds but not sure if this is a good thing or not?!

we are complete hopeless allotment newbies so grateful for any advice forthcoming. TIA

AlphaBetaOoda Thu 01-Aug-13 20:47:07

Strim then cover in black plastic or decent weed suppressant fabric. Then you can uncover sections to work on and plant through if you want to.
Don't forget to see if there's anything worth keeping!
Fruit bushes etc need to go in the autumn so you could prep for them if you've time.

howiwonder Thu 01-Aug-13 21:54:42

Thanks! Sounds like a plan. Any ideas on rotavating- is that a good idea?
Also, would love suggestions of nice easy fruit bushes to get started with?

AlphaBetaOoda Thu 01-Aug-13 22:53:12

We didn't rotivate. Partly due to being told mares tail spreads more with it and that's out biggest issue.

Fruit bushes are fairly low maintanebce. Currents & raspberries easiest IMO. Apple/pear trees easy too.

OhDearNigel Fri 02-Aug-13 01:41:43

Strim then weedkill. Then start by digging over and planting a bit of the plot at a time.
Dont rotavate, if you have bindweed it'll spread it like triffids.

Talkinpeace Fri 02-Aug-13 18:40:37

start with one 8' by 4' piece and work out from there

VerySmallSqueak Fri 02-Aug-13 18:45:46

Don't rotavate.

I would find out what I van about organic gardening (as that's my thing ),then prepare the soil,then plant.

That's my plan with my plot in the garden,anyhow.

There is also a 'no-dig' method of gardening.

I post this on every allotment thread. grin

Go and buy damp proof membrane from B and Q - about £20 - much cheaper, thicker, better than weed proof membrane.

Strim it, then cover with the membrane and weight down properly. Don't use weed killer, hurts insects/bees.

Everything under will be dead by next year - if you get over excited and want to plant in the meantime (winter brassicas) then roll a bit of the membrane back and plant.

Next year you will just need to take the dead plant matter off. You can look up Monty's 'no-dig' gardening for tips.

I don't really dig, too hard on my back.

RAKE the dead plant matter off.

Talkinpeace Fri 02-Aug-13 19:01:05

agree about trying to not use chemicals
bees are in enough trouble already

howiwonder Fri 02-Aug-13 19:51:30

wow, great advice, thanks. DH will be thrilled at the idea of no dig gardening! will look that up straight away, sounds very interesting.

so apologies for possibly stupid question - if im covering with the b and q membrane (thanks for that great tip btw Laurie) and you say everything will be dead by next year, does that mean that im waiting a whole year to do very much, other than plant a few brassicas? i suppose i imagined i would be working lots at it from the get go....

I started unrolling mine back bit by bit. Everything will be dead-ish by March when you'll want to start planting.

If you want to plant bulbs (alliums/tulips/daffs) or fruit bushes you'll be doing some hard clearing now to get them in this autumn. Remember that if you clear some now to plant you'll be weeding that bit right up til December - and weeds are bastards right now grin

Where are you in the country?

howiwonder Fri 02-Aug-13 20:15:32

we are in the south west.

this is probably very sensible actually, we have just moved house so have plenty to be doing in the house without piling on loads of allotment clearing.

so the plan is: strimming then cover now, plant some winter brassicas soonish, then the big fun will start in march when i should be alot more sorted in the house. yes, this is a good plan i reckon. also gives me time to add to my rather sad little garden tool collection...

And nothing is a daft question. I've had my allotment 5 years and I've made some silly mistakes over the years.

I garden organically as far as possible and have 40 lavender bushes to encourage bees - this has worked out brilliantly
for me as pollination is really high, I planted a cherry last year and got about 100 cherries in my first year due to the bees.

I only grow flowers (have 29 rose bushes, lavender, alliums, tree lillies), soft fruit - had buckets of strawberries and raspberries and blackcurrants, and courgettes and potatoes. And one new asparagus bed.

My allotment is entirely filled now and I need another to grow more veg.

I also work in a school so don't have tons of time in term time - I do about 6 hours a week. Busiest time for me was the Easter holidays, spent most days there. I'm in the southeast so it's been too hot to do any heavy jobs the last three weeks (like weeding) so I've just pottered and watered.

howiwonder Fri 02-Aug-13 20:36:48

oh your allotment sounds fantastic! i need no excuse to buy more lavender bushes, our patio is full of them. i m extremely keen to encourage bees and wildlife generally.

yes i can see how easter would be the busiest time, we tend not to go away much over that break, so that sounds like a great time to potter round and establish our plot.

i hope to have a few kiddie things too, maybe a mini pond for the DSs.

thanks so much for the advice here, i feel less scared now and excited at having a plan of action smile

I've just been offered an allotment, haven't seen it or accepted yet, but getting excited, some good ideas on here. I do small scale fruit and veg in my own garden, and run a gardening club at the DCs school, so this is the next logical step.

My plans are to grow stuff I want to pick and use immediately, such as herbs, spring onions, lettuce, radishes etc at home and for the allotment things that can be harvested and kept, such as onions, potatoes and masses of soft fruit as it should save a fortune over buying it and I want to encourage the DCs to come up there to help with picking (it's right by their school). Lots of lavender sounds like a great idea, I'm thinking using it as a boundary between different sections, we have a lot of bee friendly plants at home and it is lovely to see all the busy bees. I'd also like to grow flowers such as sweet peas on there.

AlphaBetaOoda Sun 04-Aug-13 22:05:36

Lavender sounds a great plan regretting stopping dh taking up the gardener a world offer now

Rhubarbgarden Mon 05-Aug-13 13:11:17

I have heard that potatoes are a great first crop for a new allotment as they break up the soil, saving you arduous digging.

Finally went to see the one I'd been offered today and really pleased, it's in a good position, full sun, near a tap and not too badly overgrown. Will be accepting it tomorrow and hope to get started ASAP. Very excited!

My DS wants a pond on it Howi - that will be something totally new for me.

Shamelessly place marking! I'm in a similar position - a bit daunted but excited!

If anyone is after lavender I just bought a whole bunch of "mishapes" from ebay for a bargain price. The origional seller is Llavender World in Yorkshire. Yet to arrive but at about £11 for 10 hidcots and free delivery who cares if not the perfect shape!

Also placemarking as have 100 feet of garden which is currently grass that is crying out to be my veggie plot.

So as mine is lawn/hard should 8 also now be abandoning rotovator and getting membrane too please?

Hidcote is my favourite lavender Fishfingers - thank you. There is a lavender farm just down the road from me, must look them up too.

Wow, that's brilliant Fishfingers - I'm sorting the garden out at the moment also, Victorian house so I want a "cottage garden" feel with lavender in between paving/paths. Thanks for the tip!

Kernowgal Tue 27-Aug-13 21:06:46

Ace tip on the damp proof membrane, am looking for something like that myself.

Also just taken on an overgrown allotment, half of it is OK and was under fabric but the other half is a meadow. I've strimmed and am covering it over with plastic and just using the first half for now.

Having far too much fun browsing seed catalogues and have already put in some herbs. The rest I've worked on is sown with green manures to try to keep the weeds down.

Beamur Mon 09-Sep-13 15:01:52

I'm a few years on with my overgrown allotment and it's going well now - one crop tip for food and bees I'd suggest is rocket and also coriander. Both grow well in my plot which is pretty cold and windy so are pretty hardy. Once they flower, you still can pick the leaves and bees seem to love them. I've got a raised bed with onions in and it's solid with rocket and coriander too which is still flowering now - and it's still humming with bees!

mistlethrush Mon 09-Sep-13 15:13:19

The benefit of the weed membrane compared to the damp proof membrane is that it lets moisture through. So if you want to grow fruit bushes, you leave the membrane down, cut a x where you want to plant, dig hole, plant bush and pin the corners back together.

I've got rocket which has self seeded from last years pots into the edges of my patio, it has looked (and tasted) lovely this year, so that's a good idea.

I'm planning to strim (well DH is doing that part) this weekend. But first I'm going to dig out a load of rather spindly looking potato plants in the hopes of finding a few spuds under there. We've discovered a raised bed in the long grass too.

As others have said, definitely don't rotovate! I also second covering most of the allotment with dense membrane and working section by section. If you have lots of bindweed, the roots go quite a way down, so you'll need to dig deep to get them out. Same with mare's tail.

I grew potatoes first on my cleared areas. They have a lot of foliage, so supress other weeds and break up the soil nicely.

If you want to encourage bees, plant some borage (starflower). Attracts loads of different varieties of bees and you can eat the flowers in salads - taste of cucumber!

Kernowgal Mon 09-Sep-13 21:35:41

Rocket flowers are really tasty too but in a sweet way - the nectar is like honeysuckle.

I'm cracking on with mine - have been gradually digging over the bit that had been covered over with membrane, planted lots of herbs in one corner and sown green manures on the bits I've dug. They're coming up lovely. The membrane that I've taken up I've used to cover over the grassy other half; also hoping to get some big cardboard boxes from work to put on top over the winter. Just need some old tyres or something to hold it all down.

Have received positive comments from the old boys on the site so am feeling v pleased with myself!

I've also made a plan of what I want to grow and a basic sort of design, which is helping me to work out what goes where and which bits I should cover and which I should sow with manure or leave alone. Already got some of my favourite cut flowers, anemone coronaria, on order to plant ready for the spring smile

Oooh, my garden is about to be ripped up and replaced with four beds for growing, you lot are making me antsy.
If no one minds me butting in with a question, - my 'allotment' will be new, as I'm having some local boys to get rid of the brambles, stones, glass and other detritus that make my garden and replace it with beds- will I need to cover for a season or two? Obviously the soil will mostly need to be bought and brought in so I was hoping to get gardening asap, but I'm worried about the return of the bramble and weeds if I rush. any more advice?

Well, I dug out 3lb of potatoes yesterday, DH has strimmered it all today and it isn't looking too bad. Need to start planning now (and order the black membrane). Green manure is a good idea.

Pregnantpause - not sure about the brambles - I've never managed to eradicate them from the garden, just keep them cut back and enjoy the blackberries. I think you would need to dig out the roots entirely, failing that some pretty heavy duty weedkiller.

mistlethrush Mon 16-Sep-13 11:13:34

Why will you need to buy in the soil? My raised bed is filled with soil which had been part of the lawn but which I dug out to create a bog garden (and some semblance of drainage for the lawn). Its heavy clay - I've improved it with some things and compost but its ideal. Did take a while to get most of the weeds out...

flow4 Wed 18-Sep-13 15:22:18

Marking my place because I'm a newbie too, and there are lots of good ideas and info here... smile I have just moved into a house with a garden - my first since childhood! The bottom half was an allotment a decade or more ago, but there's no sign of that now.

There are borders down the edges, but they're full of weeds: I've already cleared the nettles and bindweed twice - and discovered how quickly it grows back! hmm I've tidied the brambles and planted some raspberries and alpine strawbs. smile

The soil is very shallow in the existing beds - 3-9inches/6-25cm-ish. Any tips for what fruit or veg I could grow in there, if anything, before I get digging new, deeper beds?

flow4 Wed 18-Sep-13 15:23:44

Marking my place because I'm a newbie too, and there are lots of good ideas and info here... smile I have just moved into a house with a garden - my first since childhood! The bottom half was an allotment a decade or more ago, but there's no sign of that now.

There are borders down the edges, but they're full of weeds: I've already cleared the nettles and bindweed twice - and discovered how quickly it grows back! hmm I've tidied the brambles and planted some raspberries and alpine strawbs. smile

The soil is very shallow in the existing beds - 3-9inches/6-25cm-ish. Any tips for what fruit or veg I could grow in there, if anything, before I get digging new, deeper beds?

howiwonder Fri 27-Sep-13 19:04:06

a very late return to this thread - lots of good tips and ideas, thanks!

i hadnt heard of green manures, just been reading up on them. sound a good idea, i might get some as we have about 5 beds dug over, but wont be planting in them all just now obviously - would green manures be the best plan do you thnk?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now