Garden Action

The premier gardening information source

How To Clear An Allotment


How To Clear An Allotment

You have an allotment or are considering one and it's overgrown. These page will lead you through the clearing process in detail and you can be sure that you will have the best advice because we have cleared allotments three times. Each stage of the process will be accompanied by pictures because pictures speak a thousand words. We are aiming at a process which is quick and leads to a weed free result.

First let's deal with our views on the use of chemicals to clear an allotment. One method sometimes used is to clear the top grass and weeds and then spray with a glycophosphate based weed killer. This will kill the weeds stone dead in roughly two weeks and they will not re-grow. Simple and effective but on environmental grounds we simply cannot recommend spraying an entire allotment with what is after all an unproven chemical. Possibly selective spraying with glycophosphate can be justified in some cases but surely not 100% coverage.

Gardeners often find couch grass difficult to eradicate and eventually resort to the use of glycophosphate to clear an allotment. We have previously cleared a full sized allotment of couch grass without using glycophosphate and are in the process (June 2006) of doing the same again on another allotment. Click here for our couch grass pages.

An overgrown allotment. Click picture to enlarge. There are two main types of overgrown allotment, the grass overgrown allotment and the weed and grass overgrown allotment. The treatment of both (in our experience) is the same.

Let's lay out clearly the key steps we recommend in tackling an overgrown allotment and then discuss each step in more detail. The key steps are:

1. Clear the site of the top 90% of weeds and grass.

2. Clear the allotment of any large solid objects (cricks wire etc.)

3. Break up the soil surface by either raking or using a rotovator.

4. Decide how much you can dig (step 5 below) in two weeks and cover the rest with some form of mulch. Black plastic or old carpets are ideal.

5. Dig to one+ spade's depth removing grass and weed roots from the uncovered section.

6. Move the mulch up the allotment for a further distance of two weeks digging and repeat steps 4 to 6 until the whole allotment is dug over.

Other alternative methods of clearing an allotment are described briefly at the end of this article.

The first step of clearing most of the grass and weeds is required so that you can uncover any large objects, wire etc. and also to make further clearing of the plot easier. It will also make clearer any boundary lines and the general contours of the site.

Before you start, take a good look at the allotment by walking up and down. With a bit of luck you may find some fruit or vegetables which have survived among all those weeds and grass. You may well want to preserve these by hand weeding round them.

Either use a petrol strimmer which will take you a day for the average allotment or use a scythe or secateurs which will take a lot longer. All these garden implements can be hired at your local hire shop. They may well already be available from your allotment secretary.

Having cut down the majority of the grass and weeds, rake them up and put them on the compost heap. This will significantly reduce the amount of grass / weed re-growth later on.

At GardenAction we only give advice where we have practical experience of a subject.

To prove that our allotment clearance advice is the result of direct experience, the picture on the left shows the same allotment as in the first picture above, but under two years later. Clear of couch grass and other perennial weeds.


Name: Jim Kinnison
Date posted: August 03, 2011 - 08:35 pm
Message: I am working on clearing a small patch that has been over grown for years. The baby locust trees keep coming back everywhere, from these shallow roots that seem to be everywhere! The baby milk weed are almost as bad. I am starting to lean towards Roundup.

Name: Michael
Date posted: June 22, 2011 - 01:21 am
Message: Hi, I am having trouble with couch grass which is approx 400mm under unrolled crushed rock layed approx 10 years ago. is there any way of killing it when it is 400mm under exsisting rock ????????

Name: gerard fagan
Date posted: November 05, 2010 - 01:39 pm
Message: My has become a keen vegetable gardener, and for 1 year now has an alloment from his local garden society . Unfortunatly it has become overun with horses tail. I have heard it is virtualy impossible to get rid of this .Can you advise.