Help,new allotment!

So I have been offered an allotment. I have wanted one for quite a bit,but I am very much an amateur. I grew some veg in pots last year with a bit of success but that is the limit to my experience. So after getting rid of the rubbish what should I do next? Do I need to strim it right back first? I really want to give this a go but feel a bit overwhelmed at the minute. 


  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 1,364
    Congratulations on getting your plot. Unfortunately yours is a typical case by the time a plot is released to a new tenant it is usually in this sort of state. Try not to be too daunted you have time. Rather than try to tackle the whole thing in one go think about what you want to grow & what style of growing you want to do, by that I mean do you want deep beds or to plant more traditionally in open rows, both systems have their merits. If you can get some landscape fabric such as Mypex you can cover parts that you do not want to tackle straight away. Clear a section or two to start either strim or scuff off the top (you can stack this upside down in a corner it will rot). Dig over carefully remove as much perennial weed roots as you can (you may have to do this more than once of there is couch grass or bindweed) Then when the weather warms up a bit you can get some crops in. Once you have some things growing you can start to tackle the next bit. Unless you are very fit do little & often so you wont be put off. The National Allotment society produces very good advice on starting off a new plot, & of course there is lots of advice on GW.

    AB Still learning
  • paul_in_surreypaul_in_surrey Posts: 239
    Hi Claire,

    I'm a newbie to, having got my first allotment this time last year. I'm sure you'll get loads of enjoyment from it. There are fantastic gardeners on here who will be able to give you much better advice than I ever could, but to kick things off I can give you some suggestions from what I did. It obviously depends on how much time you have and there are some people at our allotments who seem to spend loads of money on theirs. I didn't really want mine to be a money pit, nor could I spend all day every day there, so my suggestions would be:
    - rather than trying to tackle the whole thing in one go I would prepare a patch where you can plant some things for a quick fix while you work on the rest. Having some things growing will make clearing the rest that much easier.
    - each time I did a trip to the dump I collected a load of cardboard and laid that over the bits I wasn't going to work for a while. It looks like you've got lots of bricks to weigh it down. It worked surprisingly well to kill off the grasses and easy weeds. As Allotment Boy says you'll eventually have to dig out any deep rooted weeds, but it'll be easier.
    - Freecycle is brilliant. There's often garden table and chairs that come up, which I think is important for you to take a breather when you start. I also got a lot of compost and topsoil from Freecycle as we have pretty horrible clay at our place so I needed to ship stuff in. There's a lot more on offer through the summer as people start building their patios and things, so I wouldn't rush it. But once you know what kind of soil you've got people here will be able to give you advice.
    - I know we don't need it at the moment but I assume you know where you'll get water from in the summer.
    - If like me you've only got a little car (Toyota Aygo) get a good vacuum cleaner.
    Once you get going it will be really good fun and you'll be surprised by your successes and find yourself watching Monty Don saying "not like that Monty!".

    “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
  • LearnincurveLearnincurve Posts: 291
    I dug half my plot out last year, was horrible and at times I wanted to sit down and weep. Put black tarp over it over winter which I took up this week - a glorious beautiful workable blank canvas is my reward.  If I had to do it again I would start digging right now  last year I started late, and got held up by that nasty late frost, so by the time I got enough clear to start planting anything it was June. 
  • Congratulations on actually getting an allotment. I was only on the waiting list for a matter of weeks before recieving mine and when I chatted to the other plot holders found that some of them had been waiting for 10 Years + ........... Awkward!

    Our plots were very much like yours and we were luckly enough that the farmer put week killer down and rotovated the whole area for us before we began.  Thinking this was normal and ok I did contuinue to use weed killer on the worst bits of my plot the following year. I have now come to realise how damagining this is and how much it upsets the natural balance of the land. I highly reccomend The Living Jigsaw book by Val Bourne, she explains how creating a natural balance allows lots of pests and diseases to be controlled by nature. I now use cardboard and week surpressant fabric as well as green manures to prevent weeds.

    My biggest top tip is to not use a rotovator - thsi will chop upall of your perennial weeds and just make matters worse!

    Good Luck

    If you need saesonal tips check out my blogs

  • Claire LClaire L Posts: 7
    Thank you all for your advice,it’s going to be a steep learning curve but I feel determined to do this. On the plus side the plot is local,10 mins in car or 5 on foot and I only work 3 days so I have a bit of time to commit to it. Now stupid question but when you put the cardboard down over the area you aren’t going to work on,would I put it down now as it looks in the pic or would it be best to strim it all back first? I can get hold of plenty of cardboard at work so that’s another good thing.
  • paul_in_surreypaul_in_surrey Posts: 239
    On mine I generally just laid it on top and weighed it down, but in places where some docks or dandelions were creating too much of a bump I cut them down with shears first. You're just trying to deprive them of light. It looks like you've got tufty bits that may make it difficult to lay flat so would probably want to chop them first. The biggest problem I had was the bind weed popping out of the sides or through any available gap, so I went around either tucking them back in or cutting them off every few days. Just remember I'm a beginner too so some of the more experienced gardeners may be groaning at this suggestion, but it worked well for me and is better than using lots of plastic. And when you're finished you can either dig the cardboard in or put it in the composter. Docks, dandelions, bindweed .... ahhh happy times and I haven't even mentioned the mare's tail yet.
    “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
  • GWRSGWRS Posts: 5,770
    Hello , lots of good advice already
    personally I would mark out paths and only do a bit at a time , most fail on our site who try and do it all in one go 
    my own plot had weeds taller than me when I started 
    my first job was to clear a site for a shed and a sitting area 
    this is a great site for practical hands on advice 
    best of luck 
  • Pauline 7Pauline 7 West Yorkshire Posts: 1,293
    Take plenty of photos, if you start to get discouraged you can look back and see what you have done,  not what still needs doing. ...........besides we like looking at photos. 
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 1,364
    You're just trying to deprive them of light. It looks like you've got tufty bits that may make it difficult to lay flat so would probably want to chop them first. The biggest problem I had was the bind weed popping out of the sides or through any available gap, so I went around either tucking them back in or cutting them off every few days. 
    Paul I certainly would NOT groan at that suggestion you are absolutely right you are trying to weaken it by stopping it from photosynthesising. It is a good technique if you can be persistent enough.
    Clare L if you can get it strummed off first it will help when you lay cardboard or fabric down but as others have said it is not essential. I did not say in my original reply it is a good idea to draw up a plan of what you want where. It does not have to be posh or even to scale just a rough mark out of what you want where & what you put in. With the annual crops you will need to rotate (move them round to different positions) as the seasons progress. If you are anything like me you will not remember exactly so having it written down will help. A good crop for helping clear the ground is early potatoes. It works because of the number of times the ground is disturbed and their foliage suppresses weeds. If you get some in by early April (unless frost is forecast) you will have a crop by late June/ early July & a clean patch of well cultivated ground to plant something else. Good first earlies are Foremost, Swift & Rocket.
    AB Still learning
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 4,508
    I would imagine there are some great books out there, for newbie allotmenteers....
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