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Old 05-24-2015, 02:44 AM
204 posts, read 130,736 times
Reputation: 75


I just rented a plot in the community garden, and I went there today to check out my plot. I was shocked and let down when I saw mine...all the plots have either already been started by people or were flat, but mine was the only one in the entire garden with a good foot of tall grass and weeds! It looks just like a wild field that hasn't been touched by man EVER. Clearly no one even rented this plot last year and God knows how many years before that. I thought I could go in there and lightly till and get planting soon. But now I have to worry about how to get it all removed. We're not allowed to bring lawn mowers in there or any big machinery, so tillers are out. My plot is 20 X 20 feet so it's like the size of a big livingroom, it would take me a month to shovel up my soil, not to mention the momentous task of getting all that tall stuff taken out. I have no idea how to go about it. My friend who does gardening told me he has no idea either. I don't understand how out of all the plots, mine is the only one that is like this. I feel like it's a cruel joke by the universe because I have never gardened before and now I can't even plant my garden, I have to get rid of all the weeds and grass somehow with no clue how to do it. Here is a picture of something similar, I didn't take a picture of my plot, I didn't have my phone with me so I didn't get a picture but this is kind of what it looks like;

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Old 05-24-2015, 06:43 AM
Location: rain city
2,958 posts, read 11,643,475 times
Reputation: 4918
For a beginner, that is cruel indeed. And not funny.

For clearing the mess you will need:

A shovel
A garden fork
A trowel
A rake
A wheelbarrow (or I like kids wagons too)

It won't take a month. But it will surely take a couple of days.

Go in and pull up with the roots as may of the big weeds as you can, throw them aside. After that, start digging and turning the soil. During this process of digging remove as many of the smaller weeds and roots as you can, throw them aside. This should leave you with an area you can work with.

Now dig some more. Go down with the shovel and turn everything up, turn it over, break it up. Remove any weeds left as thoroughly as possible. Break up any big clods and work the soil until it is as fine as you can get it. Then rake it out flat.

Once you have it turned and dug and raked, try not to walk on it. This compacts the soil.

Considering the condition, you should probably use well started plants already along in development, something big enough to survive. If you put seeds in there, the plethora of weed seeds in the dirt will quickly sprout and outgrow your little seedlings.

This is not a great situation. Garden plots need to be prepared well in advance to proffer a successful garden. What you have is a seat-of-the-pants operation.

Tend your plantings nicely and often. Weeds are going to sprout up like crazy, it will be very hard to stay ahead of them. You will surely be pulling weeds every day.

Once your garden plants root in and take off, you can cover bare unplanted areas with newspaper or mulch or straw to try and reduce the weed problem.

Next year will be much easier.
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Old 05-24-2015, 08:04 AM
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
32,144 posts, read 58,584,816 times
Reputation: 35120
It seems late to be planting now anyway, taking more weeks will make it hard to get much of a yield before the fall. I a small tiller like the Mantis is not allowed, it will just have to be done by hand and spade. There is no easy, fast way without power tools. Next year, you can put down several layers of newspaper with some soil to hold it down and prevent weeds, then the paper breaks down into the soil in spring.
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Old 05-24-2015, 09:05 AM
Location: I am right here.
4,949 posts, read 4,422,743 times
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If the weeds and grass are very tall, you can take a scythe in there to wack down the height. Then do as azoria stated.

Plant some plants, and then mulch, mulch, mulch. Newspaper and even cardboard makes great mulch. Cover the newspaper and cardboard with grass clippings or cocoa bean mulch. All will decompose over time, making the soil better. Keep on top of the weeds.
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Old 05-24-2015, 09:17 AM
Location: North West Arkansas (zone 6b)
2,749 posts, read 2,269,960 times
Reputation: 3778
I'm working through a similiar situation in my community garden in a smaller 8X16 box. For us, nobody used the community garden for atleast 2 years due to no water being available. The weeds quickly took over. This year we got water and a few folks have already turned their beds and planted.

I'm lazy and wanted to try the lazy/no-till approach so I got some black plastic tarp and just threw it over the untrimmed weeds hoping that the lack of light would kill everything in a few weeks. So far it has been only slightly effective. The stronger grassy weeds (johnson grass) are pushing the tarp up into little tents and pulling the pins holding down the fabric. Wind is doing it's part to move the fabric out of place.

After 2 weeks, I had to remove the fabric and cut down the taller grass and replace the plastic mulch with extra pins and rocks to hold the fabric in place.

Most of my plants are growing now and the weed growth has slowed but I may have to trim the tall grass again.

Your picture seems to show some woody weeds which will need to be pulled.

Can you burn the weeds?
Will a weed wacker work to level them?
how about a weed wacker tiller attachment ?

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Old 05-24-2015, 09:43 AM
Location: Des Moines Metro
5,105 posts, read 6,591,693 times
Reputation: 9674
OP, I suggest that you talk to whomever you rented the plot from. Perhaps there is a mistake. If not, maybe get your money back?

That is a cruel thing to do to a beginner. It should have been cleared last fall and then manure added so that it could age through the winter.
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:53 AM
450 posts, read 339,722 times
Reputation: 1828
Well, first of all you will never get all of that space ready for planting so late in the season.

Concentrate on a small area right away, maybe 4 x 8 to grow for this season. Pull the weeds and turn the soil removing as many weeds as you can. Then add good quality bagged compost into that soil and wait a week for the soil to settle in. Then plant hot weather plants only, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, basil. Most new gardeners try to do it all in one season but it takes a good two years for good soil to be built for optimum success. Concentrating on a small area will give you encouragement.

As for the rest of the plot, get a heap load of thin CLEAR plastic sheeting and lay it out and weigh it down. You don't have to pull the weeds, just get them to lay flat. This is called solarization, you will let the heat of the sun kill the weeds and weed seeds. Do this for six weeks or more. Then remove the plastic and replace with cardboard, weighted down. Keep it as wet as possible. It's okay to let it dry out once and awhile. Throughout the season lay down over the cardboard mulch, grass clippings compost, leaves, coffee grounds, kitchen waste, etc. as much stuff as you can find and keep moist. Worms will be drawn to this area and it will compost down. Continue to enjoy and fertilize the plot where you have your plants growing. In the fall grow winter veggies in your small plot.

Next season you will have weed free, new soil. It won't be perfect but it will be well on it's way to great soil. Look into cover crops and nitrogen fixing plants like beans and clover to add in areas.

Really, put away the fantasy of having a full plot of veggies and flowers right away. I'll be two years before you have a great fertile plot, just in time for plant rotation. Gardens are an investment in time.
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Old 05-24-2015, 12:19 PM
3,588 posts, read 4,844,019 times
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I am in a similar situation and you all have been giving such good advice.

Thank you so much.

I have been out there soaking the ground and pulling the wild grass and weeds by hand. I was afraid to till it because someone told me that because of the way grass propagates, that would give me even more grass. As I have been pulling grass, there are lot of thread-like roots left in the soil. Do I need to worry about these roots regrowing more grass/weeds?
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Old 05-24-2015, 01:00 PM
Location: Moku Nui, Hawaii
10,453 posts, read 19,973,898 times
Reputation: 9795
The thread like roots shouldn't resprout. But there will be seeds in the soil and the grass and weeds will sprout from the seeds.

Twenty by twenty is a good sized garden, but a bit much when you're just starting out. If it were me, I'd get some already started plants, a bag of compost and a couple bales of straw. Pick an area about four by eight or so and pull the big weeds, and then put a layer of straw mulch over everything else. A nice deep layer about six to ten inches thick so the weeds won't come through it. Then move the straw over and dig holes where the plants will go. Put compost in the holes and plant the plants. Now you'll not only get rid of the weeds with the mulch, but the soil be be improved when the straw breaks down. Tomatoes, basil and beans might be nice. You could probably plant the beans by seed since they sprout quickly.
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Old 05-24-2015, 01:51 PM
204 posts, read 130,736 times
Reputation: 75
Thanks for all the replies, everyone! So many different suggestions, I don't know which one to do, lol I am aware it is late in the season to start a garden, but I didn't know I was moving to this city until a week ago. By the time I paid for my plot in the garden and got assigned one and could drive there and look at it, it was yesterday, when I realized what I was in for. I don't move there for another 2 weeks, and due to my current job I am only able to drive down to my plot on weekends, but I also have to start packing, so i'm not sure how quickly this can get done.

I wasn't expecting a full crop of everything I want to plant, so i'm not heartbroken I won't get much this year. But I do plan on starting with all established plants, of course.

I own no gardening tools yet, so i'm a little overwhelmed at azoria's list...Gunslinger256 does that tiller in your picture require electric or gas or is it manual? I don't think there is anywhere to plug anything in there. I don't know if I want to buy something like that when i'm only going to use it once. But if it's relatively cheap and doesn't require power, I might get one just to get a big jump start on the whole thing. This one is only $35, would this be ok, once I get most of the big weeds out of there?

Also, the garden owner didn't know I was a beginner, the plots get assigned in order on the map, they just give the next applicant whichever space is next in line, so it wasn't his fault.

Thanks again, everyone!
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