smothering those weeds

How We Cleared our Overgrown Allotment Part 2: Smothering Those Weeds

Now our new allotment is clear and productive, I’ve started blogging about how mum and I went about clearing the weedy mess that was Plot 150B.

Previously, I posted about the benefits of little and often, as well as ways to get growing even if your new plot is overgrown, and another method we’ve used is covering sections in old tarpaulin and carpet to suppress the weeds.

I also 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. This kept the weeds away over the winter until I was ready to sow and plant.

Now is the perfect time to begin covering. It is a time-consuming process and can leave you without soil to grow in for a whole season, but by the beginning of the following Spring, I had a great base for my growing.

To Clear Weeds or Not to Clear Weeds
I pulled my weeds up before I covered the soil to speed up the process, but this isn’t completely necessary.
You’ll need to pull up anything big like brambles, but most weeds will shrivel and die under the cover. Removing the sheeting a few months later will reveal soil that’s a doddle to dig over which is great for anyone who is new to allotments or finds digging hard work (that’s all of us, by the way!).

Earthworms will feast on the dying weeds too, leaving you very little to do. However, if you do have the urge to dig, you can always peel back the covering at your leisure and turn some of the soil. Popping the cover back over the soil will keep it clean until you’re ready to sow and plant.

Getting Hold of Weed Suppressant Coverings
A quick Google search will bring up a number of specific weed suppressant products, but any old piece of tarpaulin or carpet will work. Keep an eye out in skips and these items can be readily found for free. We used a mixture of a surplus pond layer and old carpets left outside a local shop.

You can also use cardboard too. This will rot down into the soil and improve the structure. In fact, some use a sandwich method, placing cardboard between soil and tarpaulin. Check out the local tip for large boxes in the cardboard recycling bins.

Remember to fix your cover down firmly. The last thing you want is your neat and tidy weed suppressant membrane finding itself halfway across the allotment site after a particularly stiff gust of wind. Bricks or tent pegs will keep everything where it should be.

2 thoughts on “How We Cleared our Overgrown Allotment Part 2: Smothering Those Weeds”

  1. Thanks for the wonderful idea Jono! I’m in Canada, but have the same problem. At the back of our large lot, there is an area that is completely overgrown with weeds and I just can’t keep up with them. I have big gardens to manage as it is and this area behind evergreens is lost land. I am going to look for materials that we can cover the whole thing with and start fresh. Thank you!!


  2. I always enjoy your informative and intersting blog. Thanks. I have used these method to help control weeds on an over grown allotment and agree with your comments on covering the weeds / bare soil, but think it worth mentioning that there is some discussion about chemicals leeching out of old carpets.

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