Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!

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Linguistable

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Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« on: June 23, 2021, 23:13 »
Hello all, first time posting but have been coming here for advice for a while. I've just taken on my allotment after 2 years of waiting. It's a small plot (10m x 10x). Not sure how long it has been unused for, but it's fairly overgrown and very uneven ground.

So far, the weeds have been strimmed to the ground. I have removed most of the bigger junk and my next plan (likely for the rest of this year) is to use a mattock, shovel and fork to try and dig up and even out the ground.
I am likely to go down the route of no dig/raised beds. As much as I would like to just cover the ground for several months and then heavy mulch and start the beds on top, the ground is extremely uneven and needs levelling out.

I've come against a rather frustrating issue. Underneath around 10cm of soil is some awful tarp. You know the canvas banners you see on railings beside the road? Those!

I have no idea why it is there and why it has been buried. There is some weed fabric underneath the concrete slab paths which is fine. But this stuff is buried under 10cm or so of soil.

Does anyone have any useful ideas to help get it out? I don't want to just work the soil above it as it really limits the root growth even if I do plan on using raised beds. Digging it out is proving frustrating as in order to pull it up I need to remove the earth on top...
You can see it in one of the attached photos. And yes, that tyre was also buried under the soil.

There is also a rather tall (around 2.5m) willow tree right in the middle of the southern side (behind the IBC in the photo). Goodness only knows why it's there but I'll also be removing that.

So yes, my questions to you are:
Is levelling the ground the most sensible thing to do, and is using a mattock/azada how you'd go about it?
How should I deal with the tarp underneath the soil - any ideas about removal or is it just a case of little and often and persistence?

Thanks for your help!
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Blewit

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Re: Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2021, 06:43 »
Hi Linguistable, welcome to the forum and congratulations on getting your plot.
It's awful the legacy rubbish left behind on some plots and frustrating for new tenants who have to deal with it. Little and often might be the best way forward. Uncover the banner material a few feet at a time using your mattock (a brilliant tool) then it should cut off with a Stanley knife. At least breaking the soil up at this stage will make it easier for leveling off afterwards.
It's always good to take lots of photos too. When clearing a plot many of us reached the point where we feel it's not getting anywhere, that's when you look back at the photos and realise just how far you've come.

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snowdrops

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Re: Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2021, 08:59 »
What a pain, goodness knows why anyone would bury stuff like that , but on reading people’s pleas for help on here it’s common practice. If you are able & like a bit of machinery have you looked into hiring a mini digger to make short work of it? Might be worth it in the long run, if not slow & steady wins the race. Cut off the bits you expose & don’t try & pull it up. Also take care of your back, they have a tendency not to recover from that sort of injury!
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Yorkie

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Re: Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2021, 18:34 »
The others have made great suggestions about how to approach this without doing yourself an injury and yes, I agree with them, it should come out.  Not only does it restrict root growth, but it will also impede drainage as it's not permeable.
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days all attack me at once...

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Linguistable

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Re: Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2021, 21:49 »
Thanks for the replies. Funnily enough several plots on my end of the site have had issues with flooding for a few years. This year they sorted it by adding drainage pipes and installing a pump. Apparently my plot was particularly bad, I wonder if the plastic sheets buried everywhere had anything to so with it!

I've got some tarp to cover the site while I go at it with my mattock. Thanks for suggesting I cut sections at a time. I had tried pulling it up but as you said it will be easy to get an injury.

Let the hard work begin!

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Learnerlady

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Re: Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2021, 22:07 »
Hi, what kind of weeds do the plots around you have, just thinking it may have been put down to restrict Marestail. Have it on our site and the old hands recommended plastic and raised beds so just wondering if the different levels are leftover from the beds put ontop of the tarp? Willow may have been planted to address the flooding? Sorry to sound negative, took on an overgrown large plot last year and trying different methods to manage mairstail which thankfully isn't all over. We've taken photos and amazed at how much has been done, good luck and watch the back!!

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Linguistable

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Re: Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2021, 23:06 »
The majority of the plot is covered in willowherb. There's a lot of buttercup too and then some Dock. Nothing too hard to manage, I hope. I'm not planning on growing anything this year, just sorting the ground out and starting compost ready for next year.

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Potterer

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Re: Clearing new plot - how can I dig out tarp?!
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2021, 07:34 »
Hi. I didn’t have as much tarp as you on my plot, I think, but also had some tarp and other plastic on a very uneven ground. We covered it in weed suppressing membrane and grew lots of squashes in small gaps between the membrane- so that things were growing while we worked on digging the rest. I agree with others that you will need to get it out bit by bit and this will help you in levelling the soil. I moved on afterwards to raised beds and a ‘no dig’ approach. It did need to be level and plastic free beforehand though. The axed/ mattock was the best tool ever for this and saved my back!



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