Best way to prepare my soil?

Hi. I have recently taken up an allotment that was by all accounts well kept by the previous tenant until he died last spring. So it’s currently a huge weeding project. I am making progress, though the plot is so big it does feel a bit like painting the Forth Bridge.
The soil seems good, a bit stoney maybe, and other people on the plot have told me how good it is. I’m a novice so I’m taking their word for it.
I’ve planted some potatoes in the first bed I cleared, just so I can have something going while I continue to weed. I didn’t do anything to the soil and they are showing signs of life - but they are just potatoes.
But now I want to try some other, less robust vegetables - shallots, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes will probably be enough for me this season (there is a lot to do to bring the plot back to life).
What is the best way to make the beds ready for planting in?
Things I have available to me:

  • Some bags of multi-purpose compost. I don’t have a car so I am only able to bring what I can carry for a mile from Wilko to the plot on each visit.
  • Manure that’s delivered by the local riding stables and seems fairly fresh
  • Some woodchip mulch that’s delivered by the council, I believe.

Will a bit of compost on top do any good? Should I just use the manure to bulk up my compost bin? Is the corporation mulch any use?

I really am a novice so sorry for my v basic questions.

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Sounds like you have a lot of what you need with the compost and manure! With compost, yes if you have cleared the weeds, you can lay it on top and plant into it. You can use cardboard from boxes beneath this to help get rid of weeds too if you want.

Well rotted manure can be used in the same way but it is best to leave it for a month or two to let some of the nutrients wash into the soil otherwise it can burn roots - it’s so rich.

Keep the soil weed free and you’ll have a fine set of beds to plant in.

Start small, focussing on one or two beds. It’s tempting to go wild and try to do the whole plot in one go but better to get a measure of one area then move onto the next.

Have fun!

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I have huge admiration for you- I failed miserably with an allotment for a few months. You sound like you have a great understanding of what can be done. I’m sure we all wish you well and I hope you’ll update us. Best wishes. Julie


Thank you - can I ask what went wrong with your allotment and did you stick at it? I look at neighbouring thriving plots with some envy but know it may take years to get there.

Oh how nice of you to ask. I can certainly tell you what went wrong! I wrote a blog about it. I’ll just need to find it and I’ll give you the link. Hopefully it’ll make you smile. Here is the link to my story of my allotment attempt. I can see that you are made of different stuff and I’m sure you’ll soon be eating your potatoes! Very best wishes, Julie
In case the link doesn’t work, my blog is


Thank you - it did make me smile. Well it’s comforting to know that it wasn’t because growing vegetables was too complicated. I think if I had your beautiful garden I probably wouldn’t bother with an allotment either. But I live in a small flat in London with no private outdoor space.
I must admit I’m looking forward to sitting in my plot on summer evenings after work as much as I am looking forward to the produce.
My main concerns are that my plot is too big (it is really, but the alternatives were total overgrown wasteland), that my enthusiasm will wane if I have repeated failures, or that I will physically struggle due to my health (inflammatory arthritis and degenerative disc disease). But only time will tell…

Maybe you can find someone also without a garden who would like to help you. I hope you’ll come back to our group for encouragement if you’re finding it hard. Best wishes, Julie