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Ideas wanted- UK, raised beds, how to weed and grow!  RSS feed

 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 309
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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cat chicken urban
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I have an allotment- a plot of rented land. It has been turned into half forest-garden, and half raised beds for annuals. I want to grow corn, sunflowers, potatoes, amaranth, onions, garlic, beans and peas in my annual plot. The beds are currently weed-free, but the soil is probably full of weed seeds from the surrounding area. It was tilled last year, and had compost added so is in a decent starting condition.
How do I grow things here? Most people till their plots- but I don't like that idea (both because it is hard work and because it increases erosion- the plot being on a hill).

At home I use chickens to clear weeds and eat bugs- but no animals are allowed at the allotment. At home I make masses of compost by importing things in- other peoples grass clippings and purchased food- which i can't do at the allotment in any useful quantities (no vehicles allowed- anything I bring on has to be walked-on). At home I do cover-crops such a clover under tall things, but these harbour slugs (which love my climate)- again at home the chooks keep them in check. 'Classic no-dig' (Charles Dowding) recommends bare soil- but I'm only there once every few weeks so I'm not sure I could keep it bare.

What ideas could I use to turn this annual garden more permie-like? I read about so many different methods that I start to confuse myself on what I could try to use! Things to do, books to read, methods to investigate that you think might work in such a situation- all appreciated. I'm in the UK so our climate is relatively warm but very wet, with a 200-odd day growing season, year-round rain.

Thanks, Charli
 
Casie Becker
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Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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forest garden urban
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I'm afraid that my go to strategy for avoiding weed germination would encourage uncontrollable slug and snail populations for you. I like deep wood chip mulch pretty much everywhere. Maybe you could seed a cover crop which you cut back where you place seeds/seedlings. I have heard of people having success with clovers.

I've learned to recognize some native plants that are worth encouraging in my gardens. Some of them are legumes which I chop and drop as needed to help my purposeful plantings. One of them is a low growing, long flowering, shallow rooted ground cover which is popular with local pollinators. If you increase your familiarity with the local 'weeds' you may find similar options. If you allow useful plants to fill bare ground, it should help keep the less useful plants out.
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 363
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Hi Charli

I've had some success with deep mulch using straw, 15-20 cm deep. It definitely keeps the weeds down. I've noticed when mulching with my chicken bedding (straw and chicken manure), I have very little slug damage. It also really attracts worms and is great for fertility.

If you can build your soil to good fertility with lots of organic matter, I think you should be able to grow the plants you've listed fairly easily. That's my recommendation: lots of organic matter, piled on as mulch, and let the worms dig it in for you.
 
Dave Green
Posts: 32
Location: London, United Kingdom
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I'd mulch with loads of compost (made on site or bought in with a wheelbarrow).

I used loads of hay for mulching last year and stuff like lettuce and certain seedlings had no chance against the slugs. I've heard that compost is more effective as a mulch in the UK so am trying that this year along with trying wood chip over compost on some other beds
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 363
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Dave Green wrote:I'd mulch with loads of compost (made on site or bought in with a wheelbarrow).

I used loads of hay for mulching last year and stuff like lettuce and certain seedlings had no chance against the slugs. I've heard that compost is more effective as a mulch in the UK so am trying that this year along with trying wood chip over compost on some other beds


If Charli can only get to the allotment twice a month, I don't think she'll be able to keep on top of weeds which will love compost mulch.

I think the plants she has listed should not be troubled much by slugs, except as very young sprouts/seedlings. Maybe the peas and beans to some extent, but even then, once they are growing strongly, they should be fine.

If it were me, I would try to fill in the space as much as I could with plants, even if it meant popping in some cheap bedding flowers like marigolds or busy lizzies from the garden centre. Just to keep the soil covered and growing as much diversity as possible.
 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 309
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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cat chicken urban
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I've never done any 'experiments' before- mostly because in the garden I only have 3 raised beds so I've never had the room. But I have 7 beds at the allotment, so rather than growing a single plant in each plot- I'll put together a little experiment, grow a few things in each little square bed (they're only about 2m square!), and see what gets the most slug damage

So the potatoes and the corn will have their own beds- as it is just easier. But for my experiment beds I'll put a courgette, a squash, some sunflowers, some peas and some amaranth in each one. Maybe a few onions.
- One I'll attempt to keep the soil clear
- One I shall mulch in compost (getting the compost to the allotment will be entertaining! but is probably doable for one bed, and I'll try to make some onsite for next year)
- One I'll mulch in straw/chicken-coop shavings (so sawdust, straw and shredded paper).
- One I shall sow a cover crop, probably white clover as it stays quite low (or marigolds- what a fab idea, it'd look brilliant! And I have lots of marigold seed!)

And I shall weigh everything I harvest and photograph slug-damage and growth and we'll see what happens!

I shall have to see how deep a mulch I can manage- part of my problem is I never have enough organic matter- it's just too expensive and I struggle to find free-options.

I have a few more free beds- so am up for trying other ideas too! It won't be terribly scientific as there will only be a few plants of each- but I like the idea of attempting an experiment!
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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How about mulching with newspaper for some of the crops. It's easier to get to the allotment as you can take it in a bit at a time and you could get extras from the recycling centre. If you soak it well it should stay put unless you are somewhere really windy. If the slugs collect under the paper you can easily pull it up and dispose of them.
 
Casie Becker
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Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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I particularly like the idea of a cover crop of marigolds. If you're using the correct variety (commonly called african marigolds here, or the species/variety? name tagetes) the also repel root knot nematodes. Apparently the effect won't extend past the root zone of the flower, but used as a cover crop I imagine the roots will be well intermingled with the primary crops.

That is all an additional benefit to them bringing in many varieties of beneficial insects. My mother swears by surrounding her tomato patch with them. Actually, I'm having problems getting my seeds to sprout this year, maybe I'll give in and buy starts.
 
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