Transforming an overgrown plot: no-dig

April 2020 – an allotment plot is abandoned, neglected and overgrown with weeds

The previous allotment tenant had not tended the plot at all in many months. Confirmation that she had given up the tenancy was received in late April. The photo below shows the plot on about April 26th

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Step 1 – remove rubbish and cover with 100gsm weed control fabric

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The weed control fabric had been pre-used on other plots, so was in several pieces. The most difficult part of this task is finding enough heavy objects to weigh down the fabric. Pegs can also be used. I used bricks, pieces of slab and rock as they were available nearby. The wooden plank is also used and it is covering a piece of ordinary black plastic that was available  (not as good as woven weed control fabric).

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Step 2- improvise to cover the remainder of the plot

It is now early May. There wasn’t quite enough pre-used black fabric to cover the entire plot, so we used cardboard and shredded tree wood chip mulch for the gaps. The black fabric was in various shapes and sizes, hence the patchwork effect. If new fabric were used then a more linear approach would have been possible.

Step 3 – tackling a large patch of nettles at the end

Wearing overalls, wellies and gloves in early May to prevent stings…

No digging used. Trample down the nettles by treading on the card.

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Step 4 – the wood chips run out, so use grass cuttings and pulled-out weeds on the remaining card

I must emphasise that the weeds did not come from my allotment or this overgrown plot. Fortunately for me, some of my allotment neighbours allow weeds to grow, then pull them out and kindly donate them to me. They don’t seem to understand composting. Many of these weeds were fly-tipped by another allotment tenant near our car parking area and I rescued them. I then put up a sign to warn against further fly tipping near the car park.

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May 10th – all covered except an artichoke plant

Another allotment neighbour wants to harvest these artichokes and maybe transplant the plant. The area around it is covered as far as possible as I didn’t want to cut the weed control fabric…

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Step 5 – wait until end of May or June to plant pumpkins and other squash (other vegetables are available)

small holes are dug and the seedlings planted. This was the final batch, planted on 20 June – the summer solstice. Although I planted squash, this can work with all sorts of other plants (eg Brussels, cabbage, tomatoes, beans etc etc)

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It is already hard to believe that this ground was thickly covered with weeds a few weeks ago and no digging, weeding or watering has been done. The mulch is retaining soil moisture from the rain. Notice the cardboard is easy to cut through, softened by rain.

The logs and bags are there to stop the black fabric blowing away. It is possible to use pegs or pins to secure the fabric, but I had access to these logs. The bags are full of pulled-out weeds donated by allotment neighbours. These weeds will compost in the bag as they help secure the fabric in windy weather.

Mid July – the pumpkins are growing well. Weeds still suppressed under the black fabric

No watering needed, very low maintenance. We just need to wait now, for the pumpkins to grow and the weeds to die gradually and decay under the weed control fabric.

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