Author Topic: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds  (Read 3553 times)

shelivesthedream

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Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« on: October 04, 2015, 04:36:02 AM »
I put three big tarpaulins down on my allotment a few months ago. My two big problems are bindweed (which I am weed killing the heck out of and it seems to be working!) and grass (which the tarpaulins are for). I put them down over strimmed grass, hoping that the lack of light and water would kill it off and make it easier to dig. The problem I have with digging is that the grass roots form a tight mat for the first 6" to 12" of soil, making it a colossal physical effort to lever a chunk out and turn it over. I find using a fork easier than a spade as I can actually get it into the ground!

So I've returned to start digging and found it's no easier than before! Some of the grass looks dead, some doesn't. My intention was to dig it all over this autumn and replace the tarpaulins until spring sowing.

Do I just need to leave the tarpaulins on for longer? Is there something else I can do to make the dead grass break down? Or is this as good as it's going to get?

MayDay

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2015, 05:52:22 AM »
I did tarps, and it killed the grass.  But I put raised beds over it and added dirt to them.  Because like you said, the ground reminds rock hard. 

For my community allotment (we call community garden here, where are you from?) I put down lots of organic matter.  Raked leaves (I picked up 10 bags that a neighbor raked on trash day, said it from a landfill).  Straw.  Manure from a farm.  Etc.  Before you put that down, put down layer of cardboard (free from stores) to keep the weeds from coming up through your organic material. 

Then by spring enough of the grass will have decomposed for you to dig down into it more easily. 

The trick can be finding enough organic material, if it is a big garden. 

MarcherLady

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2015, 12:50:20 PM »
The only success I've had with tarps is when we stripped the grass off first.  We used a half moon lawn edge tool (but a spade would work)  Vertically chop the ground into approx 15cm squares, then lever a spade under the grass roots as horizontally as you can, until you can lever the square of sod out of the ground.  If you have the space, stack all the turves up (green side down) and cover with a tarp.  In a year to 18 months you have a lovely pile of topsoil.  It you don't have the space, turn the turves over on the spot you dug them up from. Either way, cover the ground with your tarps and leave over winter.  As a bonus, when you take the tarps off in Spring the ground will be warned for having the tarp covering, so plan to plant as soon as possible after removal.

It's a tough job, the best hints I can give you are that it's easier to slice through the roots when they are wet, but if you are moving the turves far they are also a lot heavier when they are wet.  Also, you used the word tarps, if your ground cover is totally waterproof, then it's going to leave  the ground really dry and hard.  Consider a woven mesh cover, which blocks light but allows water through, we've had good results using this.  from Amazon Warning: it frays and leaves really annoying shreds of plastic when a loose edge blows in the wind.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2015, 01:32:43 PM »
Hm...

@MayDay: Do you mean to put this organic material on under the tarps or to do away with the tarps altogether? I doubt I could get enough to cover the whole area thickly enough, but I've certainly got some half-compost I could spread on if you thought it would get it going! And do you also think I am too impatient and should leave it for longer?

@MarcherLady: Ugh... Just what I didn't want to hear! :P I might have to resign myself to some heavy work, then. My covering is completely waterproof, which I'm aware is not ideal, but the bindweed just grows through any permeable "weed control" fabric! Also I'm hoping it will kill the grass faster... My soil is heavy clay, although it has been much improved from its natural state, so I'm not too concerned about drying it out except in terms of my digging.

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2015, 02:51:29 PM »
Lasagna garden it!  Take out the tarp.  Cover with cardboard, as much as you can.  Then pile as much organic matter as you can on top of that (leaves, grass clippings, hay that doesn't contain seeds, etc--shoot for a foot if you can), then just a thin layer of compost or top soil (1-2 inches) and plant right into the top layer.  Let nature decompose the thick grass mat over time, and your plant roots will just grow down, and the earthworms will be so happy.

For extra fun, watch Under Cover Farmer on youtube.  See the last post in my journal for more on no-till farming, which I am obsessed with getting to work at my farm.  Good luck!!


Le Poisson

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2015, 03:36:43 PM »
Another vote for acrdboard and a healthy layer of organics. We use tree shred from arborists (free) over boxes from the liquor store (free) and leave it sit a full year before working the soil.


FLBiker

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2015, 12:00:23 PM »
Another vote for cardboard / lasagna.

BarkyardBQ

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2015, 12:04:55 PM »
We had bermuda grass. We let 99% of it die by not watering it. This summer we tilled the entire yard uprooting 6-8 inches through the yard. Painstakingly raked and raked to remove all roots and debris. We are no in a pre irrigation planing phase. Some bermuda is popping up, but we are doing a mix of hand pulling and weed killer which seems to be working.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2015, 03:47:36 PM »
Where do you get all of this organic material?! All I have is the allotment and I don't have a car and I feel it kind of defeats the purpose to spend money buying hay/compost/whatever.

Le Poisson

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2015, 06:11:39 PM »
I don't know what an allotment is.

We call a tree service and have them dump a load of chipped/shredded tree in our driveway. A load is about 3X what we need and then try to give away as much as we can.

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2015, 07:03:21 AM »
We get in touch with people that are cleaning up their own yard waste, and have them conveniently drop it off at our place.  Also, we have a pickup truck and we can go get horse manure from a horse lady. 

But yeah, reach out to tree cleaning services in your area.

Goldielocks

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Re: Allotmenters: advice on putting down tarpaulins to clear weeds
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2015, 04:34:28 PM »
Where do you get all of this organic material?! All I have is the allotment and I don't have a car and I feel it kind of defeats the purpose to spend money buying hay/compost/whatever.

We pick up free compost once a year from the city dump. It's a bit high in carbon, but free. Ask if a friend has a utility trailer and car to borrow. That is the traditional way.

Some people here get coffee grounds from a local cafe. Best to mix it with other green materials, but works well.

In the fall neighbours may be pleased to dump leaves on your parcel.