Friday, July 25

Clearing an overgrown plot - plot 5

On some blogs that I visit I have recently come across new allotment plot holders who feel a little overwhelmed with what they have taken on. They feel that they will never get 'on top' of their plot. This post is intended to show that it can be done but that when taking on an overgrown plot there is no quick fix!

We took on our fifth plot at the end of August 2005. We never started out expecting to garden five plots but our site was very overgrown and in danger of being closed so at that time it was typical for plot holders to have multiple plots. 

Except for the first plot, which we first rented in the late 1980's and had been ploughed by the council (back then they even mowed all the vacant plots regularly too), all the plots were in a similar condition when we started them. Perennial weeds were above head height and the plots were littered with assorted debris mostly hidden amongst the undergrowth or buried below ground. Only when we took  the final plot did we decide to keep a photographic record of our progress.

So we started off faced with this:
The fairly flat bit was what remained of a shed that had been partially removed by another plot holder leaving broken glass, pieces of foam and rotten wood behind. It previously looked like this.
The jungle of weeds included a large proportion of large docsk and bramble both of which had become firmly established.
The first task was to clear as much top growth as possible. This had to be done with due consideration of what type of material could be lurking amongst the undergrowth so it wasn't just a case of setting to with a strimmer - a pair of shears was the tool of choice,. I have already mentioned broken glass, we also found a supermarket trolley, a mystifying number of television aerials, a pathway made up of metal grids and a large piece of partially rotted carpet.

Gradually, by October we started to see daylight and piled up any rubbish that it was possible to burn, the rest went into a skip, (the council provided a skip back then).
Really we took the plot at the right time of year as we did lots of the clearing in the winter months when the weeds were not growing and we didn't have to keep on top of the other plots. We were also lucky that we didn't have a very wet winter so digging and removing weeds started in January 2006. We hoped that the winter frosts would help break down the clumps of heavy soil.
Clearing continued into February and a rotavator was used to help break up the clumps.
A section at the end of the plot was very rough and so this was left for the moment
As many weed roots as possible were removed and by April we started to mark out a rough plan so that beds could be dug over and what would become paths left to become firm. By now we needed to spend more time planting up and maintaining the other plots. We planted up a large area of the newly prepared plot with potatoes and decided to just make sure that the other half of the plot was kept under control until we could tackle it again in earnest.
The weeds in the unplanted half of the plot were kept under control with a non-persistent weedkiller and more crops were planted in the half we had cleared. Having not been cultivated for quite a few years the soil was really fertile and things grew really well. We had never grown such huge cabbages.
Once the 2006 growing season was over we tackled the remaining half of the plot which was then fully planted up in the 2007 season. The grass was allowed to grow on the paths and frequent mowing meant that it gradually looked more like a lawn that an area that we just hadn't weeded.
In 2008 it looked like this.
If we could clear such a badly overgrown plot and still maintain four other plots with only time to spare at the weekends then anyone can. You just need to be systematic and be prepared for some hard work. No-one ever said it was going to be easy but think of it this way - you won't need to go to the gym!

If you are interested the following is a video of the plot (about 4 minutes long) as the plot looks now.





22 comments:

  1. Simply inspiring! Hard work but proof that it can be done. It does give me some hope that I might be able to regain control of my veggie plot gone to ruin, but a rotovator is out of the question as I am over~run with couch grass and bindweed. The latter I do not mind so much {I find it theraputic} but feel as if I will never be rid of the couch, whatever I try.

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    1. Hi Deborah - thank you for your comments. We rely on remove couch and bindweed by hand. I think with couch the secret is to do a thorough job on a small arae and work from that point. We still have to keep digging roots out, For us it's the bindweed that is more of a nightmare. I don't think we will ever be rid of the stuff. Recently I had to disentangle our autumn raspberries and took away bucket-loads of the stuff and ir s growing back again.I love it on the hedgerow but not winding round our plants.

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  2. Sue, this was my favourite post ever. It's absolutely wonderful to see a derelict plot full of weeds and rubbish turned into such a beautiful and productive area. Truly inspiring. The video showed it to it's full glory, everything is looking so healthy. Brilliant. Happily the plot next to me has been cleared now. He had been waiting until he had a shed to start, but there were a couple of complaints, so he came down four days in a row at 6am and cleared the whole thing. I couldn't believe my eyes. There's a shed there now, weed control fabric to stop the weeds coming back, it's all wonderful. He's going to be an excellent plot neighbour! My plot is looking a bit shabby by comparison though...

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    1. At one time most of out site looked like the plot initially did CJ - I'll have to dig out some photos - thankfully now all the plots around us are taken. Just one or two vacant ones on the site.Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  3. You wouldn't believe it was the same plot looking at it now. It just shows that lots of hard work certainly does pay off. I don't think people realise what hard work it is to keep up to an allotment, you only have to turn your back for five minutes and the weeds have grown again. I suppose that's why so many people give them up after a short time.

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    1. It's the idea of growing your own that appeals to many people and they go into keeping an allotment with rose tinted glasses, Jo

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  4. So much work has gone into this. Whilst we don't have an allotment, much of our garden was taken on in this state.. my muscles are aching in sympathy!

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    1. In many ways an overgrown garden is harder, Jessica as you are always looking out at it.

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  5. I've always found it useful to not think about all the work I need to do, but put a plan in place and just start. I too get overwhelmed if I think about it. If I give myself a certain amount of time to work on it each day (or weekend day), and I just do it. It gets done. It is kind of like the joke, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

    And I'm always amazed at how much you do Sue. You keep everything up so beautifully and that is a lot of space. Way more than I do here.

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    1. There are two of us, Daphne. I think it helps that we both are 'into' gardening. Also dividing a plot into beds helps as you can set your stall to do a certain part and feel you have achieved something when it is done. Since we started using the weed control fabric things have stayed tidier - it wasn;y always the case.

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  6. A lot of time and effort over the years has obviously paid off to date. I've cleared 4 and a half plots since 2008, 1 bonus has been that a lot of the items/debris left behind by previous plot owners has been re-used on my current plots.

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    1. On this plot the rubbish wasn;t anything useful, Rooko but we did uncover lots if fruit bushes on out fourth plot

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  7. I am amazed at the transformation, nothing daunts you two does it....and obviously no strangers to hard work. Well...as they say....you reap what you sow.xxx

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    1. If only you did reap everything that you had sown, Snowbird. Maybe more like ...you only reap what you sow. :)

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  8. This has been a really fascinating post to read, Sue - thank you. It's brilliant to see the reality of how to pace yourself over tackling such a huge amount of work and the time it took. I don't have an allotment but know that it's easier to stay motivated when you have company to share the gardening jobs. I'm still amazed that you both manage to stay on top of 5 plots but it must be wonderful to grow the range of produce that you do - I was quite envious watching your video!

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    1. I think company is the key, Caro and also that it would be more difficult if you had someone pulling you in a different direction wanting to do something different

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  9. To me that looks / sounds more impressive than the Labours of Hercules! A truly massive undertaking, by any measure. I imagine you didn't need to attend any Keep Fit classes... I think lots of people would never get all that done, not even in 10 years. These days they want instant results - show-winning veg grown with no effort at all.

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    1. That's just a fifth of our plot Mark :) You are right though some people put their name down for a plot and expect it to be weedless and dug over, They want to come along and plant whatever and just pop back now and again to maybe pose with a watering can and then skip around picking things. They don;t hang around once reality kicks in.

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  10. I think we have all been at this stage at least once Sue. I have been at this stage 3 times now but I will definitely be stopping at three, it's certainly enough for me. I think the hardest thing I had to remove wa a mattress which was completes and had plenty of brambles and such growing through it!!

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    1. At one time we were stopping at three Tanya!!! A mattress sounds like a nightmare find - was it a double?

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  11. Goodness - such a lot of hard work but look what you have achieved - do you think you would be willing to tackle it now if you had to.

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    1. I'd like to think so Elaine. We are tackling some areas that have been neglected at the moment although not on the same scale. Not working now we would also have more time.and would maybe get there a bit quicker

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