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Allotment diary.

I have recently acquired some land that needs a lot of work doing to it. I am hoping to construct a framework before Christmas so I can jump right in next year.

Trouble is I have never done anything like this before,owned greenhouses or grown my own, so it will be a steep learning curve.

I hope to share it with you and ask for your expert advice too.



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  • This is my land. It needs a bit of work.

    I am going to start with the back breaking job of lifting the turf up. It is full of nettles and grass. 

    My idea is to lift off the top surface then smother in manure. I fear that if I use a rotivator I will be propagating all the nettles roots as well as the grass.

    Is my theory right? As my dad has said not to use manure. But if I don't I am bound to get lots of weeds.

    Then I intend to mark it all out for beds and place the greenhouses east to west.

  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,154

    You can hire turf cutters but they do only lift turf and some roots so won't deal with nettle roots altho these aren't deep and are easy enough to pull or fork up when the soil is damp.  The good thing is that you can stack the turves in a quiet corner - alternating grass to grass and soil to soil - and they will rot down to make wonderful friable soil for you new beds or for potting on seedlings.

    I suggest you start by measuring the space and noting the orientation so that you can play with plans on paper on cold wet nights.   Then cover as much as you can with cardboard to cut the light to any weeds and seeds and cover that with a good thick layer of well-rotted manure.   Leave it all to rot down over winter and be worked in by the worms while you get on with layouts and structures which should include compost heaps fro recycling waste and feeding your soil.

    Come spring, it'll be ready for a light forking or hoeing and your first plants.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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  • For me, the effort of digging out the turf far exceeds the effort of rotavating, raking and and any follow-up weeding.  A rotavator will turn deeper than your spade/fork getting air into the soil, and you can use it to turn in manure too.   I rotavated a weed-ridden allotment twice before planting it (with raking, it's very important to rake and collect up the weeds) and it was fine.  New weeds are being delivered by air-mail on a daily basis anyway, but you can stay on top of them with a (dutch) hoe.  You may also benefit by pulling out nettles and bindweed etc. before rotavating. With that all said, I own my rotavator (£120 well spent!) so if you are only hiring there may be better things for lifting grass, as Obelixx points out. 

    You will never be weed-free, whatever approach you use, and all approaches have their merits.  But, don't expect that you can rotavate once and never see another weed (I swear some people have this expectation of rotavating). 

    Has your Dad said not to rotavate or not to use manure?  I presume he said to mulch with manure rather than rotavate?  That will certainly improve the soil, so if it's one or the other the manure may be your best bet.  Mulching will slightly reduce the digging you have next spring but grass won't die off and fully decompose in 6 months with no air getting to it.

    Good luck.  This is a fine plot with great potential, you'll really enjoy harvesting your own produce.

  • I have access to a rotivator but didn't think to use it because of the potential to make the weed situation worse.

    So this is what I think I will do.

    Rotivate the land. Take out any big clumps of roots or weeds. Cover with cardboard. Spread with manure. Measure and plan the area. lay down slabs for path and for the base for greenhouses. Plan beds with fruit and veg and do research. Buy bare root blueberries and Apple trees. Enjoy Christmas!

    Does this sound like a good plan?

    Last edited: 18 September 2017 16:13:09

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  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,154

    Yes, a good plan and yes, check acidity for blueberries.  You can always grow them in raised beds or pots filled with ericaceous compost if needed but remember you'll need to collect rainwater for watering if your tap water is hard.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I have raised beds and water butts. I have access to braken to add to the compost.

    I am excited image

  • If i was you Cotty I would forget the cardboard and manure, let the frost and the winters weather do a lot of the work for you, if you see weeds coming up over winter period and the weather permits give it another going over with the rotovator.

    In your first year if i was you,  i would restrict myself to vegetables that you can get the hoe between, such as the bean family and cabbage family.

    Remember the roots of the cabbage family are good breakers up of soil.

    good luck in your venture

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