My First Allotment is All Grass ... What advice can you give to get me started?

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I am new to the forum and also new to having an allotment! This one has been offered to me today and is just grass. Can anyone offer advice of where I start, I believe the plot is 7 rods so it is fairly big. Should I start with a small section, dig up the grass or rotivate?

Any advice with what to plant first would be much appreciated. In my garden I have Rhubarb, strawberries and blackberries and I normally grow runner beans and similar on a very small scale.

It appears to be a huge job to start off with and so I want to get it right. Thanks



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If it were me I would get a load of weedproof membrane and cover the lot, then tackle it a bit at a time.

I would use an azada to slice off the turves and stack them grass side down in a big pile to compost.  Remaining soil will benefit from some organic matter, but I would get planting into whatever ground becomes clear.

Its important to stop the cleared ground becoming infested again. You will want to keep the borders well dug over to weaken any grass rhizomes that try and penetrate.


steven c

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you will get lots of differing advice choose which suits you and your situation because of back problems
i went no dig several years ago other plotholders have now followed suit look up Charles Dowding his idea of covering with cardboard then with a thick layer of composl  we did this directly onto grass no digging this worked for us and others on our site  most of all I hope you enjoy it
from bow like to grow



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We were faced with a similar challenge a few years ago, and decided to form 8' x 4' beds, in three long rows, with grass paths 2' wide between all the beds. We finished up with around 30 in the end, and had we wanted the extra space, we could 'double' them up!

As Wolveryeti says, starting to get some sort of small beds going will be an encouragement to keep going, as clearing and digging one bed of this size takes about two hours, but the result is enough to get some sort of momentum!

Best of luck - and welcome!

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I would start by cutting that grass down as short as possible with a mower, a mulching type mower if you have one, or can borrow one.  You may need to bring the height of the grass down in more than one pass, but end as close to the ground as you can.

Yes, turn over some beds that you will plant relatively quickly.  But you may want to cover future beds with black plastic tarp (weigh or stake down securely).  The black plastic will kill or weaken grass or weeds trapped beneath, just roll the tarp back several feet at a time as you are ready to work and prepare the next bed.

Constructing raised beds is another good option, as others have stated.
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Hungry Caterpillar

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To answer the other half of your question, things like squashes and courgettes are a good start as you can plant them through a layer of membrane or a thick mulch to help keep the grass down. Potatoes are good too, by the time you've planted them, earthed them up and dug them up to harvest, the bed will be in much better condition for next year! And have a bed for whatever veg you like best, the more you enjoy the produce at the end, the more worthwhile it will be getting there.

It might be worth using your space at home for starting things off to transplant to the plot too, gives a bit more time to get the allotment ready.

One warning about rotavating, it can cut up weed roots which then grow back from every bit, leaving it worse than before you started! Either dig by hand, spray with weedkiller then rotavate once things are dead, or use no-dig methods.
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I'm  not in the no dig club so if i was taking on that plot the first thing i would be doing is mowing the grass if needed then spray the hole plot with roundup giving it a good  spray then after around three weeks you can start digging i prefer to big the ground turning the dead grass and weeds in the bottom of the trench you could set potatoes on the plot as your digging or any thing ells because by that time the roundup should be done its job

i did exactly that method when i took over a large plot however  i did have the advantage of a tractor to plough the plot then i rotavated it and had good growing results i also did a soil test for the PH levels etc prior to plantings and all was  fine

but having said that if your a no dig person or you prefer not to use chemicals then the poly  sheet method would be worth considering or removing the turf and stacking that makes good compost when rotted but more time consuming and more work

i wouldn't even consider using a rotavator because I've  found rotavating tends to pan the bottom of the ground  but absolutely fine to rotavate when its once dug

anyway that's what i would do but its your choice what you intend doing at the end of the day good luck with what you decide to do  ;)



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Iím in my 4th year of no dig and after 30 + years of gardening wonder why I didnít no dig before lol, and not because of age etc. But I would seriously look at covering it as you say, thick brown cardboard is an option, more environmentally friendly but on the other hand if you buy the woven membrane & melt the cut edges you can use it for years. The disadvantages of cardboard is that it does rot & need replacing & of course it needs weighting down perhaps more than membrane because it will most likely be in smaller pieces but the advantage is it will be free & readily available & will get taken down by soil life as it rots so adding to your soil.
The beauty of no dig is it is quick to get planting, strim the grass, cover with cardboard & wet well, then cover with well rotted mulch & plant. You can do just as much as you can manage.
And before anyone pipes up & says about the quantities of mulch required that is only on weedy ground in the first year, after that itís only an inch or so, so probably less than is recommended to dig in  :)
Itís better for the environment,plants,soil structure, microorganisms & more. Can you tell Iím a fan.
Of course itís your plot & just my opinion but the most important thing is is to enjoy whatever way you decide to proceed and also we all make mistakes & change our minds lol
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Donít grow potatoes for the first couple of years as wireworm accumulate in grassland and will make a right mess of your spuds as they burrow into them.



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Can't really add to the variety of advice you've been given (mine would be to combine weedkiller and coverage, but don't weedkill then cover), and just wanted to say welcome to the forums and congrats on your new lotty!
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days all attack me at once...



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Thank you all so much for all the advice, so many things that I had not even heard of! I will think about what is best to do and keep you updated.

Thank you also for the warm welcome  :D



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What a blank canvas you've got there , so much potential. Some good advice has been given to which I would add , take photos as you progress as it's easy to forget what it was like and they may come in helpful if you have a dip in your enthusiasm .
Good luck
we also rescue rabbits and guinea pigs,grow own veg



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I would get a mower in there and cut the grass as close as possible ... then create no dig beds a la Charles Dowding. My garden had been conventional for decades before I got it and then another ten years in my hands before I saw the light and went no dig. I now wonder why I persisted in destroying the soil structure every time I tilled the soil. There are issues of getting enough compost though. I am lucky I have a large farm nearby and can get manure to help supplement what I make and buy in.



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Welcome to the forums.
All I will  add to the advice above is whenever I took on a derelict plot I looked at it as a three year project.
As has been mentioned bit by bit, you will get more disheartend trying to do too much too quick.
Good luck and of course keep us updated
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Hi Sonia,

Great that you've got yourself an allotment, I've not currently got one anymore but am back on the waiting list after we moved.

First thing I would do is find out what weeds/grass you have on the plot before doing anything as this can determine what your options are.
If you have Couch Grass then you will definitely need to try to dig it out, cover or use weed killer as it's almost impossible to get rid of every bit of root and you will be for ever (3 to 4 years) digging it out.

Dandelions and weeds of that type are easier to deal with, you can go with 2 options here (in my opinion) depending on whether you are going organic or not, organic you will need to dig as deep down as you can to remove the entire root or cover completely for several weeks/months, none organic use round up as previously stated and you will have to apply it 2 to 3 times to get rid of it.

Great advice above by all and which ever way you go with things, enjoy it and take lots of photos to remind you where you started as it can really motivate you when you think your not winning.

Happy digging


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