Growing Tips and Ideas
New plot? Don't panic! Here are our top tips on getting started
A new plot may be very daunting, but start small and build up with these top tips from fellow plot holders..
Start by designating an area of your plot for compost. You can start with a rough heap and then enclose it later.
Remove any undergrowth, brambles, tall weeds, etc and place by the bonfire area near the lower gate. Any compostable items should be kept on your plot and added to your heap.
Clear all the remaining growth using a strimmer cutting the grass and weeds very short. F.L.A.G. members can borrow a range of tools including strimmers from the tool shed. More details here.
Start digging and removing weeds. Put all your weeds on your compost heap but remember that some weeds will return if not fully rotted (e.g. couch grass, dandelion roots). Work on a small patch at a time depending upon the time of year and current weather. Keep that area clear and productive and it will grow in size, slowly but surely.
Cover the rest of your plot with either a) flattened, heavy duty cardboard, b) heavy duty weed control fabric, or c) old carpets. (Carpet - if you opt for this you MUST remove it within a season - rotting carpet can create problems after that. Avoid any carpets with artificial under-lay or too much man-made fibre; they can leave chemical residues in the soil.
Beware of allowing grass paths between planting areas; when even a little overgrown they make easy cover for slug raiding parties! Couch grass will also creep back in. Use the woodchip or leaves (over a membrane if you prefer) available by the lower gate while they are new. (Rotted ones make excellent early spring mulch under fruit trees!)
Rotovate - an optional alternative is using a heavy duty rotovator to cultivate a large area of soil. It's effective - but you must get stuck in and dig out the perennial weeds before they re-establish! A light duty tiller is available to borrow from our tool shed. More details here.
Raised beds can be great for a no dig approach but are not trouble free. It is essential the area is COMPLETELY free of perennial weeds - especially couch grass - or your task will be harder.
Compost- try to keep as much of your waste on your plot as possible and build a compost heap. Using just a few pallets, with the base open to the ground your site waste will start rotting down nicely to create a rich compost for you to use. Builders' sand bags make excellent compost containers. The bags will fit inside your pallet structure. Cut a large hole in the base so that worms can get in. You should be able to spread your first compost after about one year.
The series of "Expert" books by Dr D. G. Hessayon are excellent find but maybe hard to find still in print.
For all you need to know about how the Folly Lane allotment site runs, read our Site Welcome