Real Men Sow

Clearing an Allotment Plot Without Rotovating

tarpaulin‘DON’T DO IT!’ came the cry. ‘All you are doing is making more weeds.’

Adam had left the comment in response to my recent post which considered using a rotovator to clear overgrown allotment plots.

‘At our allotments a guy rotovated his plot two years running,’ Adam continued. It looked amazing when he did it. All planted up with perfect looking soil. A month later you couldn’t see the veg for the weeds.’

It got worse. ‘People who rotovate rarely stick at it,’ responded my Twitter buddy @aplottoofar. ‘there’s no quick fix for getting rid of weeds other than digging them out. Plus, doing so demonstrates an understanding of caring for what you have & much more likely to stick at it.’

Despite my admission that yes, I’d consider using a rotovator, it is hard to disagree with the chaps. So, if you’ve been presented with a right tip of a plot but don’t want to rotovate, what do you do? How can you clear effectively, but still get some growing time in? Here are some methods I’ve used or seen implemented.

Cover with a Weed Suppressant
I did this when I moved into my new house and began growing vegetables at the back of the garden. The area was a mixture of grass, weeds and bramble so over a few weekends I pulled and dug out everything, and then covered the soil with old tarpaulin and carpet. This kept the weeds away over the winter, until I was ready to sow and plant.

My space is quite small and a year later is not entirely weed free, but they were definitely reduced and I’ve not got a great base for next year.

Dig Little and Often
Digging little and often is good for both body and mind. As I’m sure you’ll know only too well, digging causes aches and pains, especially if you’re not used to doing it. It is worth breaking up sessions if possible to ease the impact on the muscles.

Progress is always a morale booster too, so standing back and being able to admire regularly spruced up sections rather than slogging through hours and hours to cultivate one big section is much better for the mind.
By doing this, you can prepare a small space ready at a time. It might take more weekends, but at least you’ll have areas ready for growing.

Try Growing in Containers
Whilst you’re working hard bringing the plot back to life, try increasing available space by growing in containers. You can home the containers on top of tarpaulin or carpet you’ve laid down, and fill them with some of the soil which you’ve dug over.

Container veg will need more water than veg grown in the ground but salad leaves, peas, chard and tomatoes all do well in containers.

Raised beds.
I had an overgrown plot next to me, and the new plotholder pulled the big stuff up and then built raised beds. The remaining grass was left as paths in between the beds, and very smart it looked too.

The advantage of this method was that my neighbour was growing immediately, rather than spending months getting a very untidy plot sorted out. He used soil dug out from the plot as he went and turned the weeds and grass into an excellent growing space in just a few weeks.

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One Comment

  1. GemOctober 17, 2013 at 8:28 pmReply

    I’ve always been advised against the black plastic method as it kills earthworms and whatnot. But it IS pretty effective.

    I’ll just continue pull everything up by hand, one weekend at a time…

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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