Clearing an overgrown allotment or a patch of rough ground to make a new vegetable plot can be a daunting task. You may be advised to use weedkillers but there is an alternative, if you are not scared of very hard work. When I was a child, my father took over an allotment which had been neglected for some time. Here is what he did:
Remove any weeds that are going to seed e.g. docks, thistles, ash weeds (fat hen). Use a prong to get out as much of the tap roots as possible. This is easier if the soil is moist. Burn or compost (but not if there are any seeds).
Strim the whole plot. Let it dry, then rake it off and burn or dispose of the trash.
Rough-dig the plot, turning each spit over. This will be very hard work, so do it a bit at a time.
In the spring, the first thing to come up will probably be couch grass. Using a fork, remove as much of this as possible, as it re-grows from the tiniest piece. (This was our job as children).
Plant the whole plot with maincrop potatoes such as Cara or Sarpo Mira
You will need a few friends to help you eat them all. Potatoes are good at smothering weeds and cleaning ground.
After the potatoes, you should be able to start growing all the usual range of crops.
Alternatively, borrow a pig if the allotment regulations permit!
Mare’s tail is very difficult to get rid off. Do not attempt to dig it out, just keep strimming (and later hoeing) as soon as it is visible above the soil. Eventually this will weaken it.
My father had bumper crops and won lots of prizes including the ‘Naggers & Braggers’ cup for the biggest veg (in this case outdoor cucumbers).
Don’t forget to take before, during and after pictures (as you can see below). We would love to hear how you get on and follow your progress in the newsletter.
Best of luck.