Arriving, Day 1


If you have always dreamt of having an allotment but actually have no or little experience of gardening then what you may encounter on that first day may be quite daunting.

The allotment secretary has said plot no.234 is yours, and with your agreement comes certain cultural commitments.

Then you are alone, surrounded by people who seem to know what they are doing (don’t believe it!)

Their plots are in various states of cultivation, every one individual, but the rules are clear –  whatever horticultural philosophy you subscribe to the plot must be well cared for.

Your plot is covered in grasses and weeds so where do you begin?

First Things First

You will need gardening tools and a wheel barrow. A shed to keep them in would be very useful and a place for you to shelter, eat sandwiches, make tea and invite others over for a chat; after all allotment life includes your fellow allotmenteers; or you can keep private that is the special thing about allotments – its full of individuals!

Basic Tools for the job

  • Spade
  • Fork
  • Rake
  • Hoe
  • Garden Line
  • Five Pronged Cultivator
  • Tea Making Facilities

So it is off to the garden centre or a specialist gardening supplier/on or off line.

There will be an array of choices, many cheap and in the long run probably not up to the job ahead. There are many other useful tools you will need later but these ones are to get the land clean and ready for planting up.

  1. Stainless Steel Fork and Spade – with ergonomic (nicely curved handles that are comfortable to use) will last longer easy to keep clean and strong enough to tackle the plot before you.
  2.  Rakes – come in various shapes and sizes choose one that is strong and practical remember this is not light gardening on a flower bed but large scale cultivation for several years of use
  3. Hoes. Draw Hoe or Dutch Hoe?. At this stage this is probably not needed – the hoe will come into its own later; unless your plot is already quite clean and requires only the removal of a few surface annual weeds. The difference between annual and perennial weeds I will discuss later. The Draw Hoe Types have a swan neck appearance with a straight blade facing downward. It is used walking forward cutting through the weeds as you go so you are walking over the weeds you have cut. The Dutch Hoe Type is a flat blade slightly upturned that clears the soil from the top of your plot moving backwards walking onto the weeds you will be cutting next. People have different preferences. I like clearing land initially with the draw hoe; and prefer the Dutch hoe for more delicate work between rows.
  4. Garden Line – this might seem a premature purchase but when you begin forking or digging, keeping a straight line until you are experienced saves a lot of time losing where you have got to and walking over your hard work. More of this in the ‘how to’ section.
  5. Five Pronged Cultivator – a very useful tool for later breaking down of larger soil clods after digging/forking prior to raking
  6. Barrow –  you can use a bucket for weeds and stones but when we come to the first digging/forking if done properly you will need to move some soil to begin with the barrow saves a lot of hard work!

Next guide: Beginning to clear a plot in poor condition : How To

© 2012 Summer Street Allotment Association
Royal Horticultural Society
National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardenersy