Thursday, 30 December 2010

Out of control allotments (2)

If you think that I am going to give you a list of quick ways of controlling a weedy allotment then this is not for you.  Turning an allotment around, whether it is new or has been allowed to get overgrown, is not an easy project.  It will take time and commitment.  There are some fairly quick ways that will take a year at the most.  
  •         Double dig with skimming.  This is where you divide the plot into two parallel areas.  Skim off, about a turf thickness of weeds, from one area and leave in a pile. Take out a trench one spade width wide where you have skimmed off the weeds and leave the top soil and first spit of subsoil on the other area.  Take the next trench top soil out and leave this on the pile in the other area too.  This will give you steps. In  the first (yellow) trench fork the bottom so that you go down another possibly 30cm.  
  • Place upturned weed turfs along the bottom of the first trench (yellow) and cover with the next trench’s subsoil (light brown).   Complete this trench by putting the next trench’s top soil on top (brown).  Now you have got steps again.  Fork the bottom of the deepest trench, skim off some more weed turfs and put them at the bottom of the trench and cover with subsoil.  Add manure or compost if you have any and the next trench’s topsoil goes on top of this.  Continue until you reach the side of the area then go over to the adjacent area to get top soil and subsoil to fill the trenches.  You will dig trenches on the new area so that you can work backwards towards the piles of soil you took out of the first trenches. 
  • Try and get as many of the perennials, such as couch grass and dock, out of the skimmed soil so they do not regrow.  I reckon that they will come back no matter how diligent you are at removing stolons and tap roots so be prepared to have to weed out regrowth after  a couple of months.  If you carefully cover the skimmed off weed turfs with subsoil then with top soil, there is very little regrowth because they are buried so deep.  Persistent perennials do not like to be disturbed so if you continue to dig and fork the ground removing the roots, they will eventually die away.  It will be time consuming and hard but if you want a good allotment you have to do it so get over it.
The 2nd February 1982.  My allotment when I was skim and double digging it.

  • Digging is the best way to clear the ground, put air into compacted soils, help with drainage and introduce some organic matter to produce some nutrients.   It’s not easy and it is hard work.  It is one of the most effective ways of getting an allotment into producing good vegetables relatively quickly. 
  •  Cover the ground with thick black plastic; the second method.  This prevents light from reaching the plants and they are effectively starved to death.  Several drawbacks include; it’s an expensive method unless you can cadge, scrounge or beg some; the plastic must be weighted down effectively so it does not blow about and fall on my allotment; storing it when it is not in use (you will need big pieces that will blow about onto my allotment if it's not very carefully folded up and put into a shed where it cannot do any damage to other peoples’ allotments); and finally it seems to attract hundreds of slugs and snails that seem to migrate onto my allotment and end up eating my vegetables rather than yours.  Some people use little pieces of plastic, cardboard, newspaper and carpets.  They soon find that plants will grow around the edges, through holes and anywhere light reaches the ground.  And finally, I have not found anything more effective than carpets to attract rats onto the allotment.  You might be thinking that I am not too keen on this method, however I am using some tarpaulin at this very moment for the very first time.  Needless to say, it is weighed down by the parts of an old concrete sundial, several concrete slabs and some full plant pots SO IT DOES NOT BLOW ONTO ANYONE ELSES ALLOTMENT. 
  • The third way involves chemicals and you have got to ask yourself why you are growing your own vegetables.  If it to grow organically, so you can give your family vegetables that are not contaminated, then you have to avoid this method of clearing an allotment.  If it is not, I am not going to encourage you by telling what chemicals to use or how to use them.  Sort it out for yourself.   

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