Starting Out

If you take over an allotment plot that requires no work, having been left perfect by the departing tenant congratulations you chose your plot well.
More likely, it will be covered in couch grass and other perennial weeds, with the added bonus of a rickety fence and a ramshackle old shed full of someones rubbish.
But all is not lost, consider this a blank canvas allowing you to decide how the plot is laid out and an opportunity to garden the way you prefer.

Make a start
Clear any surface rubbish and cut back any vegetation as close to the ground as you can. Going over the area with a strimmer/brush-cutter is probably the easiest way, and can be quite enjoyable as the results are near instant. Rake together all the top growth you’ve just cut down and dispose of it by either burning or piling it up for composting.

The next step is to get rid of the weed roots.
One way would be to start at one end of the plot digging over the whole area, picking out the perennial weed roots as you went along. On a heavily infested allotment this takes a long time and a lot of work which is the main cause of new allotmenteers giving up.

An alternative is wait until the weeds just start to regrow and then spray them with a glyphosate based weed killer, this not only kills off the top growth but penetrates down to the roots as well. There are no instant results this way, it may take two to three weeks for the weed killer to do its thing.

Whilst your waiting, take stock of where your going to have your paths, shed and greenhouse. A rough pen and paper sketch of what you want the plot to look like will help no end in the coming months. Mark out the paths, veg beds and any hard standing areas for buildings or compost bins with pegs and string.

Once the weeds have died back down invest in hiring a rotavator, this will save you a lot of back breaking digging. Rotavate the areas intended for the veg beds, this will turn the soil to a depth of about 8 inch, and bring a lot of the perennial weed roots to the surface. Rake up any exposed roots and dispose of them. Any remaining roots under the soil that may have survived can be easily forked out now the soil has been turned.

Get some thing planted
The vegetable beds can be given a final clean by forking out the remaining debris as you start to plant and sow your crops. Try to walk on the beds as little as possible, so not to re-compact the soil, use a board or plank to work off.

Don’t rush – if you try to do too much too quickly, your tasks will become burdens. Instead, do a little and often and enjoy.

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