As part of HIPPO’s Britain’s Best Allotment campaign, we’ve been looking at the main points to consider when giving it a go yourself. We include the basic equipment you’ll need to tackle your allotment, as well as some novel ideas and clever gadgets that make the task of maintenance both easier and more efficient. Whilst one core factor to owning an allotment is the financial benefit of reducing your food bills, the reality is that it can be quite expensive in the beginning. So take a look at some of the basics that you’ll need, as well as some more inventive ideas to get you started.
First things first, you’ll need a set of tools which no allotment owner can do without. The bare essentials include a spade for all the heavy work, a fork to turn the dirt, a rake to keep things tidy and a hoe to work the weeds away. You should also have a steady supply of cheap gardening gloves (as you’ll be getting through a lot).
A wheelbarrow will be one tool in particular that every owner will learn to love (and sometimes loathe). Whether it’s shifting muck to use as fertiliser, or taking waste away to be composted, a sturdy wheelbarrow is an absolute must - just remember to buy one with solid tyres so that you don’t have to deal with troublesome punctures. A hand trowel makes weeding and harvesting crops easier, whilst even a basic battery-powered strimmer can help to keep your plot looking tidy. Access to a ready water supply will be down to each individual plot. A watering can (or two) will be needed to ensure your plot gets plenty of water. In addition to these indispensable tools, you might want to consider acquiring some shears or secateurs to prune away unwanted growth once your plants have become established.
Fancy Gadgets and Bright Ideas
Once you’ve established yourself as the Green-fingered Master of your plot, you’ll find various challenges that can be solved with some ingenious gadgets and energy-saving ideas. Extended dry spells for example can prove challenging for growers, but by investing in a water butt, you’ll find a handy storage solution for a water supply when the rainclouds are few and far between. With our unpredictable weather, it’s useful to capitalise on any wet spells by collecting that valuable rain water when you can.
Worms: Nature's Little Helpers
A fascinating source of rich fertiliser can be obtained by establishing a wormery. Worms convert organic waste into what studies show to be the best natural fertiliser: worm cast. This wonder stuff needs only to be used sparingly to create fantastic results. A wormery is similar to a conventional composting bin, but contains a culture of worms that work tirelessly to convert general organic waste into worm cast. Guides exists online on the means to get your own started, and it is this kind of idea that modern allotment users are keen to utilise.
Helping With the Back Work
There are a number of clever products out there designed to shoulder most of the physical stress and strain that comes from working the ground. From basic spades and forks that utilise longer handles and hinged heads, to seed spreaders and rotavators which do the really heavy work effortlessly. Getting stuck in is all well and good, but never at the expense of making a bad back worse. Always work within your means and make the tools do the work for you.
Bottle Top Watering Spikes
These ingenious little life savers ensure that your allotment is still going to get the water it needs, even if you are away from your plot for an extended period of time. The idea couldn’t be simpler. Watering spikes can be attached to any screw top bottle to be filled with water and placed into beds and crops to slowly release water over time. These home-made solutions are a cheap alternative to irrigation and also save water as very little is wasted.
And Don't Forget
Of course, you’ll soon be harvesting lots of fresh fruit and veg. You might benefit from a specialised allotment recipe book to make full use of all the rewards from your hard work!
With the use of these innovative gardening techniques - combined with handy gadgets and energy saving tools - there is no reason why you can’t master your own allotment. Considering the health, nutrition and financial rewards on offer, there is a lot to be gained from a successful allotment, so why not get started?
Could your allotment be the pride of Britain? Enter our competition to find Britain’s Best Allotment, in association with The National Allotment Society and National Allotments Week and you could be in with a chance of winning £1,000 worth of prizes.