1. How to get started - clearing a plot
2. Security and safety advice
1.How to get started - Clearing a plot
A fairly common problem for new plotholders taking on a plot that has become neglected can be getting rid of re-emerging brambles and / or couch grass.
Brambles - cut down the plants using as long handled tool as possible but a spade will do the job if wielded at a steep angle downwards. Don't work in wet weather (so as to avoid tools slipping from your grip) and wear long sleeves, trousers, boots and stout gloves.
Another (but slower) way to clear brambles is to use a pair of long handled loppers and cut each bramble shoot down to ground level.
Whatever method used, wear thick gloves and use eye protection in case a bramble stem hits your face. If you are wielding a long handled slasher, be very careful of people nearby and especially of anyone walking or standing behind you.
When you have cut down the foliage and stems, the next step is to get as many bramble roots as possible out of the ground. This can be done with a spade but the easiest way to get bramble roots out is to use a "grubbing mattock". Smaller, easier to wield and more efficient than a pick-axe, a grubbing mattock has a short chopping blade and usually also a cutting blade which makes it ideal for getting out roots. But whenever you use a mattock be sure to wear safety footwear. Grubbing mattocks can be purchased locally at DIY stores such as B&Q.
Any non-compostable waste you find on your plot can be deposited in either of the containers near the gates. But everything which can be composted should form the basis of compost heaps or bins on your plot. Any brambles / roots can be kept to one side and burned when allowed by the Council. Information on bonfires can be found on the site's notice boards or ask the allotment secretary for advice. On no account start a fire without getting authorisation first.
Couch grass - Also known as twitch grass, Elymus repens is a very invasive and persistent weed. It has strong underground stems (rhizomes) from which new shoots are produced in spring and autumn that quickly produce tufts of leaves and yet more rhizomes. Resist the urge to rotavate your land if couch grass is present; rotavating just chops up the roots and spreads them around.
The most effective (but definitely non-organic) way of eradicating couch grass is by using glyphosate weed killer sprayed on the grass stems when they are actively growing. However these products are not selective so care is needed to prevent spray landing or drifting on to other cultivated plants and causing damage. If you want to garden organically or otherwise object to using weed killer then you can carefully dig over your plot and tease out every piece of couch grass you find. But you will almost certainly leave some small fragments behind so you will have to keep removing the new growth for the first few years. Make sure you do not compost the pulled up couch grass straight away- it's very resilient and can survive in the edges of heaps. Best to leave it piled up in the open so it will dessicate and die, and then compost it.
If you are not able to dig your ground over and pull out all the couch grass, and want to avoid using weed killer, another option would be to lay black plastic, weed control fabric or sheets of cardboard over your ground to suppress the weeds and weaken them to the point they fail. However this can take up to two years to work properly with perennial weeds (such as couch grass) so it is not a quick fix. Please note that the use of carpets as ground cover is no longer allowed on our site. Please dispose of old carpets off site.
Tools needed for clearing a plot
protective clothing, inc. thick gloves, eye protection and steel toe capped boots or wellies
grubbing mattock or heavy duty hoe (azada) or garden spade
long handled loppers
Basic tools and equipment you'll need for cultivating your plot
As a minimum you will probably need the following:
a digging garden spade (stainless steel or steel)
a digging fork
a hand trowel and hand fork
garden twine and short bamboo canes (for setting out rows)
hoe (Dutch and / or draw) for weeding
border spade (great for digging narrow trenches and planting out - easier than a hand trowel)
wheelbarrow (the more you grow, the more compost you'll make and the more shifting around you'll do). If you leave your barrow on the site be sure to paint your plot number on it and also security mark it with your house number and post code.
Click here Its never too soon to start composting.* for information on composting.
white rot' disease 'Get at least two compost bins for your plot (paint your plot number on the lid and /or sides) and start putting in all your green waste from the plot (not the couch grass!). Bring your shredded paper waste from home and all your vegetable peelings (not onions though - too high a risk of .) Mixing shredded paper and kitchen waste makes great compost. There should be no need to add compost accelerator, just a bit of soil added occasionally to the bin will speed up the process nicely.
Many seed merchants now sell seeds of plants which can be used as part of your crop rotation and, when grown, dug in to improve soil fertility. One of the downsides of green manures is that the plants take land out of production, so if you are short of space it might be best to use an overwintering variety such as Winter Tares or Red Clover. The RHS have an advice page on green manures which can be found by clicking here.
2. Security and safety advice
Sheds and equipment
Squire / Master Lock.The door, door frame, walls and roofs of sheds should all be sound. Any damaged or rotten sections need to be replaced. Door hinges and padbars (hasps & staples) should be secured with threaded coach bolts with back plates or large back washers; hasps are easily wrenched free if this is not done. Use good quality close-shackle padlocks; these cannot be easily levered or cut. Buy good quality locks from a reputable manufacturer both you and any criminals will recognise e.g.
Consider lining the shed with plywood sheeting. This makes it much harder for anyone to break through the sides of your shed after lifting off cladding. Re-inforce the back of the shed door either with plywood or steel mesh, this strengthens the door and makes it harder for anyone to cut across the door timbers from the outside in order to crawl through the gap into the shed - sheds are often broken into this way by surprisingly small people......
Think about installing a battery operated shed alarm available from DIY stores.
/ Inside the shed, chain any tools through their handles to each other and then to large heavy items such as lawn mowers or cultivators. If you have neither of these fill a bucket with concrete and, using a masonry fixing or embedded chain, lock your tools to this. Specialist locks and fixing devices can be found at
Property mark tools and other valuables with your post code and house number; engraving or scratching is the best permanent method. Record serial numbers of all equipment and keep the records safe. Use forensic marking systems, see and
BIG letters on your wheelbarrow, buckets, bins and larger tools. Paint your tools with bright colours makes them harder to sell in boot sales....Make your equipment distinctive! Paint your plot number in
Do not leave spades and other tools (eg saws) lying around your plot because they can be used to lever or cut open shed doors.
If you have no valuables or tools in your shed, consider leaving the door unlocked.... people won't then need to break in to find thats there is nothing worth taking!
101 Report any suspicious activity and crime. If the matter is urgent phone 999. For non-urgent matters, e.g to report theft or vandalism of your property to the police you should phone the site supervisors know and also let
If you have any ongoing concerns about site safety or security please email us at
Site safety is an important issue for everyone. Observe the low speed limit on site (5 mph). Don't lose sight of children in your care. Be careful when mixing and using chemicals. Avoid lone working when using power tools.
Please note that dogs must be kept on a leash at all times when on the allotment field. Dog handlers are responsible for cleaning up any fouling caused by their animals.
RHS website Water hygiene. Its not well known but Legionnaires disease can be caught from stagnant water or water droplets in warm conditions. Its advisable to take basic safety precautions when using hoses or standing water. Hose pipes need to be drained before being stored or left on site. Detailed information can be found
For more details about getting started you may wish to look at our how to guides. Please not this page is for our plot holders only and registration to the website is needed to access this page.