Couch upon Couch

This topic contains 8 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  plot52 7 months ago.

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    Hello all
    I took over my allotment just 3 months ago. It had been uncultivated for a very long time (see ‘before’ photo). The soil is a lovely light loam but the couch grass is so thick there is more couch root by volume than soil in a ratio of about 4:3. Because the soil is so loose the roots go deep (2 spades depth) and there are some very deep tap-rooted perennials as well as bindweed.

    I appreciate the superiority and benefits of the no-dig method but the cost of sufficient compost to make it work on 200 sqm is prohibitive. We have free wood chips for paths – not composted – and access to horse manure from an adjacent stables, likewise not composted. I do want to be able to plant this spring so have been digging out the couch (exhausting and very slow work) and have created one no-dig bed (1.2 x 4m) with cardboard, bought in compost and weed suppressing membrane. But I can’t possibly afford to do this for the whole plot.

    Is there any way I could use the semi-composted horse manure and still be able to plant out, say, in May?

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    Plot52 you are doing a good job of tidying and clearing. Nice that you have a before photo.
    Year one in these situations is a big effort and as much about clearing weeds as growing food. The perennial weeds are priority, so you don’t have to keep taming them for years to come.
    Yes on all areas where you as yet have no beds, spread the uncomposted manure, water if the straw is dry, then cover with black polythene which is not expensive. By late May/early June you can plant squash, courgette through holes in the poly, potatoes too say first or second earlies (keep seed chitting until then) for a quick crop of them.
    Above all, keep pulling any couch leaves/stems that regrow through planting holes and the beds you made, twice a week.
    Also lay cardboard on the paths if couch is too much to keep pulling.
    Don’t let any grow by the wooden sides, which can make it more difficult. Your aim is 100% eradication everywhere, even a bit beyond the plot edges, paths and beds, with the parent roots dead by the end of this summer I would hope.



    Thank you so much for taking the time Charles, that is really helpful advice. I will start spreading the manure now and acquire the necessary black plastic.
    I’m going round and digging up as many tap roots and bramble crowns as I can find (the latter appear from nowhere) and have cardboard as well as wood chippings on the paths – so it will be great if we really can eradicate the couch by the end of summer – I thought it might take a couple of years. I shall be zealous in pulling it up!

    Really excited to start the no-dig experiment!



    Hi Plot 52, Just to add to Charles’s sage words, I find that a good thick 4″ of woodchips on the paths means that when perrenials do pop up, the woodchip is so loose, the roots are easy to remove…
    I feel your pain as I was used as child labout 50 years ago to grow potatoes for the family in a field of couch grass, where the rhizomes would go straight through the potatoes! I guess what I am saying is in the bit you are clearing, you may want to be thorough else you will be doing it next year again.



    Thanks very much Neil, I agree, so I’m trying not to leave one iota of root, but I know that is a vain hope with Couch. So I am removing the top 8-10 inches completely and carting it off to my pallet-built ‘couch corral’ where I intend to leave it all covered up for a couple of years to see if it will die. Then I’m SIEVING the soil in the next 8-10 inches. I know this destroys the soil structure but I am hoping I can build all that back up again once I’m rid of 99% (?) of the roots. I’d much rather the no-dig solution works so I’m keen to give it my best shot.

    We’re fortunate in the free woodchips, so I’ll make sure it’s a good thick layer.



    Hi- I may be wrong, but I think you could put the compost and black poly on top of the couch. It can’t live without light and should die and rot. The only exception maybe is around the edges, where it would be good to clear so the stuff under the poly isn’t fed by attached stuff beyond it.
    Hope that helps. Good luck!


    Karen Guthrie

    Hi – I’ve had a lot of couch to deal with over the years and have found that – like many problem weeds like sorrel too – successive years of mulching does as much as hand weeding – it simply seems to make the ground less hospitable and they vanish in about 2-3 seasons. On non veg borders I typically alternate bark, municipal compost and mushroom compost in a pretty hefty layer applied in April.
    Best of luck !



    Thanks Penny. My main issue is lack of compost so am just looking for ways of doing this with what I have or at least without breaking the bank



    Thanks Karen. It’s good to know it can be defeated

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