Forum home The potting shed

A new allotment


We finally have an allotment and went to take a look at the weekend; it's a full 250sqm plot.  It is a little overgrown with weeds, but it's not at all bad.  We've inherited a nearly-new shed and a very serviceable potting shed - bonus!

Our growing experience is nil, so this was our plan going forward:

Start outlining all the beds on paper (beds running N to S, as the plot runs E to W).
Cut back any tall growth and pile up for a compost bin.
Cover every square foot with heavy duty weed-suppression membrane.
Dig the first bed over and remove weeds, then recover.
Progress across the plot during winter and digging additional beds over.
Grab manure when available for free and add it to the beds.

How does this sound as a plan?



  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,528
    Sounds OK, but being a skinflint, I wouldn't buy weed-suppressing membrane.  It might starve perennial weeds into submission by excluding light, but the soil will still be full of weed seeds which will germinate at the first opportunity.  You can achieve the same end using flattened cardboard boxes from the supermarket or thickly-layered newspaper, with the advantage that worms and weather will incorporate it into the soil. When you dig the beds over, you'll be bringing more weed seeds to the surface.  Your best friend is a hoe used regularly to slice off the seedlings as they appear.  No need to remove them, they'll rot down.

    One thing you definitely don't want to do - and I speak from personal experience - is to rotavate it.  It's tempting as a quick way to clear and break up the ground, but it also chops all the perennial roots into bits and spreads them around, and you end up with more than you started out with.
  • nick615nick615 Posts: 534

    I think you're on the right track.  Planting rows N-S allows the sun to shine up them and everything gets a share, but I'm not sure why you're apparently regimenting the space into beds?  To me, you start with crop A at one end and gradually sow others until you reach the other end, leaving narrow walkways in between.  Keep a chart of the plot.  Enter each crop as you go, so that next year you won't plant things where you did this year.  The benefit of this method is that, because individual crops occupy wider or narrower spaces, what constitutes a pathway in year one (i.e. unused) will grow something in year two and so on.  Imagine the difference between a row of carrots and another of spuds.  When folk set specific paths across their plots, they'll usually make them wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow, whereas a simple footway will be much narrower, thus wasting less space, again never to be used.

    A roll of heavy builders' membrane will be far cheaper than pukka weed suppressant, as josusa47 says, and the idea of digging/weeding a patch, then re-covering, is spot on.  As you say, manure can be grabbed when available and slipped under the membrane for worms to convert before replacing it again.

  • Thank you both, I appreciate the advice.

    I did consider the cardboard option, but it would be an awful lot of cardboard boxes.  Good shout on the membrane.  Weed membrane is £58 per 100sqm and the dpm is £38, so that's a good saving.  I assume water not getting through don't be an issue then.

    Ok, no beds - that's a good bit of effort saved. I'm convinced!
  • nick615nick615 Posts: 534
    By this time of year the ground is fairly full of water which gradually capilliarises up from deep down - hence dew.  So, instead of evaporating each day, the membrane will hold it in.  OK for a month or two but not good long term.  Thinking we might move house, I decided not to garden one year, so covered the plot with membrane.  We didn't move so, after about 18 months, I took it off and dug it over to re-start.  Interestingly, my normal healthy population of slugs had completely disappeared, not to reappear since.
  • Ok great, then it should be fine for winter.  I go with the cheaper dpm. :)

  • NewBoy2NewBoy2 BristolPosts: 1,590
    If you intend to keep the allotment for several years you should weed as above and then you may add manure to a single 4 foot wide cross ways bed to a depth of 4 inches and leave it till Spring when it should be ready to sow.The thousands of worms will do the work.

    Next October ...2021...when you have harvested all of your veg you can then consider if the manured bed did better.

    I spent the first 7 years on my plot doing it wrong then I have been No Dig for 2 years now.

    Manure is not thatexpensive when you consider that once added in October that is all you need to do till Spring.

    Enjoy Natures Pace...........Slow.
    Everyone is just trying to be Happy.
  • There's a stable at the top of the road that regularly puts out bags of manure, so hopefully I'll be able to get a reasonable amount for nowt!

    Thank you for the link :)
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 2,934
    Yes the biggest challenge with no dig is getting enough compost and manure.  If you have solved that problem then it's the way to go. 
    AB Still learning

  • Agree with the above, Charles Dowding is great too, lots of YouTube videos of his to check out. 

    My advice would be to get some fruit trees and fruit brushes planted this winter, winter is the best time to plant these as they are dormant now. I think its much better to get them stuck in the ground now, rather than wait till next year to consider it as they will take a good 2-3 years at least to start to bear fruit (the trees anyway).

    Just consider any regulations on your allotment regarding the planting of trees, M27, M9 or m26 rootstock should produce relatively small trees fine for an alotment I believe. 
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,119
    We were in exactly your situation in July 2019, but our plot was in much worse shape (with 8ft high Brambles, and lots of small trees).  We went down the membrane route.  We gradually weeded an area, bed by bed, and then added manure, and covered and left it.  Once we had done this with the whole plot, we built raised beds using scaffolding boards (covered in waterproof plastic to lengthen their shelf life).  We covered the paths between the beds in the membrane, and then covered in bark chips.

    For now, we dig in any manure to the raised beds, as the soil is quite heavy clay.  In a year or two, when it is much more friable, we will go no dig, and simply add the manure at the start of Winter.  Good luck, having an allotment is a wonderful thing, and you will make so many friends in addition to healthy veg and exercise.
Sign In or Register to comment.