New Allotment - How do I clear the grass! 😮

Hi Everyone! 
This is my first post and I would love some advice please. 
I have taken the leap and have taken on an allotment. Being a beginner I have chosen a small plot of 167sq yards. I am so excited to get started but my plot is just grass. Long, thick grass. 
I need to tackle it but I’n Just not sure if the best way. Lots of people have told me to rotivate it but I don’t want to cause more problems along the line. The council has organized the grounds man of the allotment to strim the grass but then it’s down to me. 
At the moment The only plan I have is to let them strim it, clear as much of the grass as I can and then suppress the roots I can’t get to over winter. I really don’t know what else to do! 
Any advise is greatly appreciated! I’ll try and attach a picture of it’s current state. 


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 19,472
    edited October 2018
    If you want to save on labour and start planting quickly you can leave the strimmed grass in place and just rake it level if needs be then cover with cardboard - remove any plastic strips and metal staples first.   Weigh it down with bricks or stones to stop it blowing away and make sure it overlaps so all light is blocked and the grass can't grow.

    This will suppress weeds and once it's damp you can plant thru it or you can spend winter piling on well-rotted manure or garden compost depending on what you can get and then plant up in spring.   It depends really on what crops you want to grow.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thanks Obelixx. I was hoping for a blank canvas so was wanting to completely clear it. The soil underneath seems really good. 🤞🏻 
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,778
    when the grass is cut short, if you can afford to, you could hire a 'turf stripper'. Cheaper option is a sharp spade - does the same job but it's hard work. You basically strip off the top couple of inches - as long as it's not couch grass the roots will be shallow and it'll come away from the soil below like a heavily glued down carpet.

    Then it depends what you plan to do. If you're going for raised beds, you can turn the turf grass side down and lay it in the bottom of the raised beds, cover it with a thick layer of mulch and come spring, you'll have lovely rich top soil.

    If you're not having raised beds then you can stack the removed turf in one corner of your plot, grass side to grass side, like a multi-layer sandwich. Then cover the stack with black plastic or old carpet and again, by spring you'll have a nice heap of good top soil which you can spread back onto the plot. In the meantime, mulch the exposed soil to stop weeds getting in.

    If you're going for the spade option, you might want to pace yourself and do a section at a time rather than try to clear it all in a weekend. You may not be able to walk upright for a few days.....
    You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
    Know when to walk away and know when to run
  • Thank you Raisingirl 👍🏻 I think I will go down the sharp spade route and maybe set out to do a metre square at a time.
    I had no idea I could reuse the grass I take up as top soil. That’s really useful advice, thanks again! 
  • SkandiSkandi Northern DenmarkPosts: 667
    Grass is pretty easy to kill, so long as it's not couch grass of course! I would cover the entire thing with black plastic it'll be ready to plant in May or so.
  • ZeroZero1ZeroZero1 Posts: 564
    If I were starting this allotment I would strim down the grass, then make some raised beds - decking board is cheap. It is likely that you do have couch grass, and probably couch grass seeds just waiting to grow next year. 
    One way is to dig over the soil by hand and remove all roots. If you leave bits of roots they all become plants. Another ay is to kill it all with glyphosphate. If all this sounds grim, it's not too bad, because  you can weed out the couch as you go next year. It's easy to do.
    In your raised beds you could put a layer of manure, or dig it in to the soil. Then in between the beds  bark chipping. Some councils give this away. Your fellow allotmenteers will know best sources for chipping and manure. The chippings make it easy to walk and suppress weeds. 
    Doing this will pay off big time as you proceed and bring order to your plot.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 19,472
    That's good advice too and helps you organise the space for crop rotation but black plastic or cardboard to cut the light will kill off most weeds and weaken others ready for forking over and digging out the roots later on.

    Glyphosate has limited effect on couch grass and deep or strong rooted weeds in my experience and is seriously bad for bees. 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • barry islandbarry island Posts: 1,052
    I don't know why allotment associations let the plots get so overgrown your's looks like it hasn't been dug for quite some time, I guess the association committee give the decent vacant plots to their mates. Anyhow that's by the by I would think that the grass is couch grass but don't despair take it slowly and once the grass is strimmed down dig it over and remove as much of the grass and roots as is possible. As has been said cover as much of the area as you can with anything that you can get your hands on, cardboard, wood boards, plastic sheets don't use carpet it was once thought that carpet was ok but now most allotments don't allow it. If the ground is soft enough use a fork as you won't cut the weed roots up so much and do a bit at a time. If you have a plastic dalek composter you can compost these weeds but they will take a couple of years at least to rot down, or you will have to burn them or take them home to put in the garden recycling. Anyhow good luck and look forward to plenty of fresh air and exercise you can do it.
  • mac12mac12 Posts: 41
    You can mess about with bits of cardboard and plastic sheets for as long as you want then next year when your totally fed up with it walk away thinking why did I bother.
    First time the plants are dry get some glyphosate on leave 5 weeks then enjoy some winter digging and you'll have a plot to plant next spring
  • obelixx i was in same position three months ago a bigger area grass three feet high couch grass/ horsetail you name it was terrible strimmed it lightly dug covered in plastic till next year the largest area 40 ft  by 23 feet is covered in plastic there is no way i am growing anything in the ground there i am in process of building raised planters 37 inches tall 5 feet by 3 feet 10 in total when i pick plastic up next year i will put down weed membrane and wood bark these are very good planters very strong hope this helps and good luck
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