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my recently acquired allotment is completely covered in strong growing weeds inv.thistles,bindweed etc..please advise best approach


Evening. The best way is to do it all by hand-sorry, rope in as many of your friends and family as possible! Try to get what you can planted asap after the weeds are gone, dont panic if its not perfect, it can take many seasons to really get on top of it. Just enjoy your allotment, take it a step at a time, good luck x

I'm sorry to totally disagree with you Rebecca, but where perennial weeds are concerned, glyphosate is the only  SENSIBLE way forward. With an infinite number of friends and an equally infinite amount of money and time, you can get on top of " strong growing weeds" but most of us don't have that luxury. Sorry. 

Each to their own, i cleared two allotments by hand, with the help of my partner and family, i never have or would use chemicals. The only weed that wasnt there was marestail thankfully! The trick to it was going back over the same ground often-this was the advice of the site secretary. I agree that this method is time consuming, i would have to go every day really, even after work and very tired!
We cleared ours by hand as I don't do chemicals, mostly me with some help from my OH.

I would suggest buying some black plastic and covering part of your allotment whilst you concentrate on the rest. Don't be in a rush to think you have to be using all of your allotment straightaway just tackle it in bite size chunks.

We covered about half of ours with plastic and didn't tackle that part until the second summer so 12 months on ( we got our allotment in the June). On the other half we dug out perennial weeds first, concentrating on one part at a time so that we gradually created some raised beds and paths. As we have cleared each part the black plastic has being recycled to cover another area or cut into wide strips to form the base of a path. It's now our second summer and we are fully up and running and all the allotment is now fully in use.

Also remember that it is more valuable to pull up/dig out weeds before they go to seed. Sometimes all I did was go around the plot digging out docks or dandelions, ignoring anything else that wasn't an immediate weed threat. It doesn't give you an immaculate area to admire but does mean that your populations of weeds get reduced. We had loads of huge docks with great long tap roots but now just get the odd seedling appearing which can be easily yanked out.

It can feel overwhelming sometimes especially if you are near to immaculate plots but you will get there....

Good luck : )



Or instead of using black plastic lay sheets of cardboard down then mulch deeply over it with rotted manure. See Charles Dowding and his no dig approach to weed reduction.


Take your time. Just do one or two areas in your first season whilst covering up the rest with thick black plastic/old carpets are a cheaper option/ and you can work on the covered areas a bit at a time in autumn and winter saving your back!  Roll up the carpet do a bit of digging & roll it back down and the rain will soak in stopping the coverings blowing off. If the top level of decent soil is not very deep/poor like ours its better to make raised beds rather than dig down into clay or rubbish soil...then you can add your manure/topsoil/compost mix into the raised beds. its a few bob initially buying in the stuff but after filling its just an annual top up and dig over in late autumn early spring...a lot of garden shops have a sell off of composts in autumn. Good luck and bend those knees!


I have all this to look forward to. Just got the keys for my new plot and the grass is knee high. Sadly there is a bit of mares tail in one area so suggestions of how to deal with this would be appreciated. I am collecting a combination of cardboard and black plastic. I noticed some of the other allotmentiers have used tarpaulins, so will use ours aswell. I did read about something called Solarization where you put clear plastic down and seal the sides, has anyone tried this method?


I had an allotment infested with bindweed. I constantly asked myself " why did the last guy let it get so bad?"

You certainly have my sympathy there My friend and I acquired our plot last year .It too was knee high in weeds of every shape and size .Hard graft digging everything out hand weeding and spraying areas which were not to be planted proved satisfactory.This year the planting areas are manageable hand weeding and hoeing.The sprayed areas are back to jungle again.I just wish all the produce grew as well as the weeds Good Luck!


I'm in the get it out by hand group. My experience is that after a couple of years of graft then even pernicious weeds like bindweed and horsetail become no more a problem than annual weeds.

I do agree with you Scroggin hand weeding even the tiniest weeds forking out docks and dandelions, goodness they have enormous roots,and hoeing everyday.If only I had the energy.We love it though when we look at the results

Hello , had an  allotment October 2012 with 5 ft high weeds and no end of junk . With a bit of help , digging and pulling out by hand buy end of 2013 all under control , didn't want to use weed killer but used a bit and still do on paths 

What I am trying to say is a combination in my option works best

best of luck

I'm in the by hand group too, the reality is you will need to dig the plot over anyway so pull the weeds out whilst digging over. Use a spade it's easier than a fork.  

I recently got a plot in February, the brambles were visible but the weeds didn't start growing until April, so got ahead start .

The plot was partially covered in black plastic which I was advised had acted as a giant propogator for weeds, the advise was good and I soon discover a labarith of roots so be mindful about laying plastic for too long a period, on a positive note roots will grow close to the surface and come out easy if the area covered has been roughly dug and heaps of muck put on top and unless you have something to plant covering stops the weeds from growing.      

Know your weed roots. I mainly had brambles, bindweed, couch grass and horsetail.

If you dig out the crown of a bramble you've killed it, the roots are none productive and will rot in the ground. Bindweed has white roots, the deeper roots are tinged orange. Couch grass are white, tough and stringy. Horsetail are black and the hardest to see.

I try to be organic but painted Roundup on tree trunk stumps and bindweed under a fruit tree. Bindweed growing up the rabbit proof fence is also destined for a treatment of Roundup . Roundup takes at least six weeks to be effective, you need to wait for it to reach the roots.  At this time using this method wouldn't be a solution if you want to start growing stuff this side of August.

Burning surface weeds/grass will also kill the roots in some cases. If you have a lot of stuff to burn build a bonfire over a patch of weeds.     


Having strimmed down the the knee high grass/weeds, I have discovered that my newly aquired plot has the heaviest, stickiest clay soil known to man which will not come off a fork!! It slopes down towards a stream so the moisture collects there.  Its impossible to separate the weeds at the moment, so I am roughly digging with a spade and extracting any roots that will separate. I am now covering with a thick layer of well rotted horse manure to let the worms do a bit of work and hopefully change the consistency of the soil to make it more workable.I have covered areas to try and dry out the soil a bit, but am not sure about covering for a long time, will it kill the weeds?

My hubby thinks I am mad taking on such a project,but as I point out to him, we have the same clay soil at home although not as wet ,and our garden looks amazing, so I will not be put off!!!




Steve 309

That seems to be a good approach Gina.  Clay soil always benefits from a load of organic matter and will be very fertile once the worms have done their work.  Bog garden at the bottom?  Watercress?  Rhubarb likes lots of water too.

Hello , the allotment next to mine covered freshly dug ground with huge amounts of horse manure , it held back the weeds for about 6 month , then they came through with renewed bigger , take care !

have you considered digging a ditch down to the stream  / bog garden and filling with rubble ? to help drainage , could even be made into a path

best of luck



Hi GWRS, I will dig it over again in a few weeks, I am hoping the clay consistency will be less cloying and easier to weed.Fingers crossed !!

Sounds like you've made a good start. The second time you dig the area it should  be alot easier than the first time.