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Allotment Diary

Reducing weed growth over winter

Keeping on top of weed growth is something that’s easier said than done during the festive period.

There’s not many sleeps until Christmas now, and on average, time at the allotment is nearing a visit every 10 to 14 days or so – maybe less with the weather being so awful.

This makes the thought of weeds growing and taking over in my absence even more prominent. Historically, I’ve called this Allotment Withdrawal.

This year, I’ve kept non-growing areas covered to help keep weed growth at bay. Restricting the light to the weeds is crucial in keeping them in check – and it works.

I’ve done this with my raspberries and it’s paid off pretty well so far. Touch wood, this has without a doubt given me an advantage when it comes to keeping on top of the weeds.

At the moment, I’m utilising a variety of ways to keep the beds covered, so I thought I’d go over what I’m doing while I’m not there.

Leaf mulch

At the back of the plot, I have two or three giant oak trees which shed generous amounts of leaves during the autumn and winter.

I tend to fill the tree boxes with these leaves and I also cover the compost bins to try and reduce weed growth, through the lack of light.

My compost bins are quite prone to growing weeds, so hopefully this will reduce, if not put a stop to that. Leaf mould is also very good compost material to have.

Plastic sheeting/carpet

Plastic sheeting or carpet if you can get hold of it is great because you can roll it up and reuse it time after time.

In this weather, it’s best to weigh down that sheeting as much as you can. The storms, rain and wind will upheave everything before you know it.

If you find that sheeting is hard to come by, then keep hold of empty compost bags to lay down instead – it can work just as well.

Plastic sheeting and leaf mulch

On first glance, this bed just looks like it’s got plastic sheeting on top, but underneath that there’s about five or six wheelbarrow loads of leaves from the oak trees.

This is a little bit of an experiment I’m having and I’m seeing how and if the leaves will decompose and break down under the sheeting.

This particular bed will be for a yet to be decided type of fruit in the spring/summer months.

Cardboard

One of the great things about Christmas is that cardboard is in easy supply and in abundance.

It’s widely used by no-diggers up and down the country to keep beds covered and you can consider this my first taste of no dig gardening.

One thing to remember if you’re using cardboard is to remove any sticky tape holding the boxes together, so that the plastic doesn’t make it into your beds.

I’ve used a mixture of big pieces to cover the middle of the ground and small pieces of cardboard to cover as much of the edges as I can.

After I laid the cardboard and weighed it down, I also watered it generously to make it even heavier and less likely to blow away.

Chances are I will just dump material from the compost bin on top of the cardboard in the spring.

I was at one of many Christmas gatherings and somebody asked me, “are you putting the plot to bed?” and this is exactly how all of this feels 🙂 .

How do you put your plot to bed? I’d love to read your suggestions below.

7 replies on “Reducing weed growth over winter”

I try to grow some things over the winter, it gives me a reason to be going to the plot in the winter! So we have eight beds, growing leeks, chard, kale, broad beans and cauliflowers. The fruit beds get topped up with wood chip and the other beds get covered with plastic weed fabric, which is the only thing the foxes won’t chew up. Because of the foxes, we pin it down otherwise they just pull it up! I’ve found because we use no dig we have very few weeds in the beds anyway and what we do have is generally pulled up in about a minute. Unless it’s the raspberries making an escape from one bed to another!

Merry Christmas! 🙂 I envy the position you’re in 🙂 Maybe next year I’ll writing about what I’m growing over Christmas, especially, Brussels sprouts! I suspect the foxes are looking for field mice for vowels or other little critters that are lurking about, but that’s just speculation. I still can’t stop watching them when I visit – fascinating! Have you had much issues with the excessive rain?

I’ve just taken over the whole plot so the half I’ve been working on for 3 years is ok as it’s all raised beds and wood chip paths. But we are on quite heavy clay with and underground river running along one side of the site, so the new area has lots of puddles but no flooding. Between now and spring, I need to build raised beds on the new half and that’s easier to do right now as the soil is so soft!

Wow! You have a lot growing – much more than me! I agree with you on keeping the beds covered – it’s a practice I’ve adopted this year and it’s definitely paid dividends in the long run. I’ll be keeping the beds covered as best as I can going forward 🙂 have you harvested much over the winter out of curiosity?

Greens yes lots. The chard and leeks haven’t been having a good time, but the beetroot and cabbages did well into November and the kale always does well. The cauliflowers got a bit of a beating from the greedy pigeons until we netted them properly! Next year I want to get my timing right and grow some hardy salad leaves under cover and some swedes and turnips and Florence fennel! Which may be over ambitious!

Ha I know what you mean – I try not to plan too extensively if I can help it. I have a rough list of what I want to grow but most of the time I’m governed by the weather…

After a few years of starting an allotment from scratch my thoughts on what I would have done if I knew what I know now 🙂
1) Front of allotment – psychologically good to have something growing all year round with a bit of colour (so it looks good) and is composed of ‘perennials’ such as asparagus, self seeding rainbow chard / spinach, bulbs, mini-hedging using lavender + thyme, and oregano which self seeds. All look after themselves and just require a couple of inches of compost to be thrown over them in autumn as a weed suppressing mulch & appreciate the compliments as allotmenteers / visitors pass by.
2)Cardboard – the gardeners friend as a simple path / bed creator / weed suppressant / soil ‘warmer’ over winter. For paths just shove leaf or wood chipping over the top and hey presto a path. Some cardboard and more wood chippings 90 degrees to the paths and hey presto you have created beds. Beds psychologically (to me at least) make weed control feel ‘manageable’ even after coming back after a break, eg holidays. Cardboard over the aforementioned beds and you have a weed suppressant & soil warmer over the winter so you can get on with planting (little weeding) in spring, not weeding / digging (no-one really enjoys that do they).
3) Yep, get some pallets and get a compost heap going – there really is something to be said for making your own compost to spread over the above mentioned beds in autumn so they are ready in spring (with some garlic, onions, shallots and broad beans planted in late autumn so you know something is growing.
4) Finally a fold up table & 2 chairs so you can sit back and ENJOY.

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