Feb take-over of new plot

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rw3272

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Feb take-over of new plot
« on: December 08, 2009, 11:01 »
Hello all, what a great forum to find.

We are currently buying our first house which has a full size allotment plot and 10x8 greenhouse in the back garden.  I have always wanted to grow my own so this pretty much swung things for me!

The allotment plot was active and productive in the recent past but hasn't been used for the past 2 years due to the owners advancing age.  It has been covered in black plastic for this time.

Our estimated move-in date is mid-Feb.  Obviously I am itching to get started but am not sure of the best way to go about things moving in so close to spring.

I have ample access to well-rotted and fresh manure but am concerned about the aminopyralid (sp?) issue.  The obvious solution would seem to be to get in a heap, trial grow some veg in it this year and incorporate into the plot next winter if all seems ok.

I also (for my sins) keep and show guinea pigs.  These are bedded on hemp based litter and hay.  Again I am hoping to compost all of their waste along with very plentifull chicken manure from the hens.  Again, this won't be ready until next year.

So what would be the best way to prepare the soil?  If the weather is ameanable to digging then I hope to gradually get the plot dug over prior to starting to plant out april/june (we're in North Cumbria).  I am just really unsure what to do about adding manure/compost.

1. Add nothing this year and accept that results likely to be poor (but probably will be anyway as I learn the ropes) then homegrown/tested manure/compost next winter
2. Add well rotted manure feb/march and hope it is not contaminated stuff
3. Add small quantities of bought in manure/compost

What would you do?

Many thanks for your time and opinions,
Rachael

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gillie

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2009, 11:20 »
I think you would get decent crops this year without adding any manure, though a sprinkling of fertiliser would not come amiss.

How to prepare the soil will depend on what it looks like when the plastic is removed, if it is weed free and reasonably crumbly just get stuck in sowing and planting, there may be no need for any digging.  If you cannot make a reasonable seed bed because the soil is compacted buy in plants this year with a view to getting at least part of the plot in better shape for next year.

Can you get hold of a small sample of the manure and do a test sowing?  Mix it 50:50 with soil and sow a few susceptible seeds such as tomatoes or french beans in pots and grow them on a window ledge.

Cheers,

Gillie


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bigben

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2009, 11:40 »
If it was productive until a couple of years ago then there you should be able to grow something. Perhaps trial a small area as a test with the manure you have available to see if it is ok and get on composting everything you can. You can always use chicken pellets etc to try to improve the rest.

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peterjf

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2009, 12:11 »
if nothing else you could grow nothing but potatoes

and this will break up your soil , maybe a few runner beans up canes too

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madcat

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2009, 13:00 »
I'd go with Peter - aim to put a good chunk of the plot to potatoes next year.  Why?  well, firstly they will help you get rid of the weeds lurking under the plastic with the digging and earthing up; they go in the ground in April (I'm assuming Cumbria is a bit later than us) which means you can get them chitting pretty much as soon as you arrive; they aren't particularly fussy about the ground (fertility, clay, whatever) while you work out what you have; don't take too much of your time - and don't under-estimate how much time other things in a new house will take!    :happy: and finally, your own new pots are divine!  Oh - and go for varieties that are slug resistant - they will have adored your black plastic for egg laying.

You can play on the rest with things like beans and courgettes and so on (given the quick test - you could even do that now, give you something to play with!) started in the new house and planted out after the frost in May.
All we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about (Charles Kingsley)

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stompy

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2009, 13:10 »
Welcome to the forum.

I would beg, borrow, or hire a rotavator.
So long as the plastic has killed off all the weeds (docs dandilions etc) which it should have after 2 years, i would run a rotovator through it.
I know some people don't like them as they "can" develop a pan under the top soil, but it would give you a very good workable soil straight away.
You can then do the whole digging in soil improvers in autum :(
That should give you plenty of time to assertain the quality of your manure!
I would also sprinkle Blood Fish and Bone over where your going to plant, then just feed as and when needed throughout the year.

This is only my opinion, but thats what i would do :happy:

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strangerachael

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2009, 14:12 »
I would definitely test the manure before using it. In the meantime, as someone else has said, sprinkle a few chicken manure pellets or blood/fish/bone before planting/sowing in spring. You can always buy in a couple of bags of manure/compost/soil improver to  put in your individual planting holes for courgettes etc. Then make as much compost as you can over the spring/summer, and hopefully you'll have all that plus your manure (if ok) to use in the autumn. Guinea pig bedding and chicken manure will be a great addition to your compost heap/bin. Good luck  :)
Rachael

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Christine

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2009, 18:30 »
I'd go with the suggestion about building the biggest compost heap in the world this year ready for the autumn.

I'd take off the plastic as soon as possible to allow weeds, slugs and whatever to put in an appearance. This will allow you to get a dig through as the house allows you - who knows, that black plastic could be hiding mares tail and bindweed.

A fairly fallow season will allow you to get to know the garden - where the sun shines most, where the shady spots are, whether it is fast draining, whether it retains water in wet periods.

If you aim to grow a variety of fairly undemanding cash crops of the salad variety and to prepare well edged beds for strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb (escapers all) and such that can be planted in the autumn and herb beds for long standing things such as sage, rosemary, thymes and other herbs that are perennial then you will have gone a long way to getting your plot productive. You may well have to buy a few bags of compost to get these areas going but in the scheme of things you have to start somewhere.

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Babstreefern

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2009, 22:56 »
Welcome to the forum. 

I would go along with Stompy :lol:.  Rotovate it in March/April, and start planting :D.  If its not been worked on for a couple of years, then at least its had a "rest", and should be ok for planting anything :tongue2:.  You're not too late to start off sowing.  I start between Thewordwemustnotsay and New Year by sowing my onions and leeks.  And then I just carry on with cabbages, tomatoes, spuds, beans, peas, etc, etc.  In fact, I've just put all my sowings in my calendar on the computer and set them all on reminders to pop up on Fridays, so that when I come home from work, and I log onto my computer I will get reminders to do the sowings that weekend.  Simple 8)
Babs

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chriscross1966

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2009, 03:38 »
Squash makes a good clearing crop.... I'd suggest Festival as a good bushy plantand Bon-Bon if you want a wanton and agressive trailer/climber, plus it tastes great.

You can run a bean test with broad beans as soon as you get it.... start ten seeds somewhere warm on moist kitchen roll, stick five in a 5" pot of soil, stick five in 50:50 soil and manure to test....
chrisc

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rw3272

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Re: Feb take-over of new plot
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2009, 10:51 »
Thanks everyone, I knew I could rely on you for some honest advice.

I think that I am starting to formulate a plan of attack.

-Rotovating the whole plot is I think a sensible tip, next winter I would want to double dig (or at least cheat double dig) so the only concern with using one would be spreading weeds.

-I was planning a 4 year rotation so could put half the plot over to potatoes without mucking that up... and we do love potatoes!

-The remainder I will experiment with other veg, a combination of sown at home and a few bought in as young plants with the addition of FBB.

-I will get a manure test on the go ASAP. If this comes back OK then I could presumably spread well-rotted manure on top as a mulch later in the season to add some goodness.

-Come next winter I can get the plot dug over and well manured and then work on building my raised beds.

Many thanks for your help
Rachael



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