Real Men Sow

Could You Go Car Free on the Allotment?

I recently received an email from a lady called Liz, asking me how practical it was to take on an allotment if your only means of transport was a bike.

This was in response to one of my daft cycling / allotment hybrid posts that I’m prone to writing from time to time, and considering the amount that I use my car on my plot, got me thinking.

A few years ago, I pondered giving my car up altogether, but one of the main reasons for keeping it was so I could still cart things around when needed.

Clearing Rubbish Away
My poor little Nissan Micra takes quite a beating sadly. I use the car down the allotment a fair bit, mainly when I’m clearing weeds away and need to take them to the green waste dump on the edge of town. I’m pretty bad at keeping on top of the weeding so often end up doing it in one big sweep and have lots of bags to take down.

I do know someone who composts their weeds, and if I kept on top of things maybe I could do this but there is something about putting weeds in compost bins that I’ve never liked.

Some plotholders have regular bonfires to get rid of their unwanted weeds, but as much as I like a bonnie, you need to be around at the right time – i.e. when the wind’s not blowing in the direction of open windows and Mrs Smith’s washing.

Tools
Liz was also worried about taking her tools to and from her allotment. The easy answer to this is ‘get a shed’, but of course, sheds cost money, and you could argue that having a set of tools just to keep down the plot is a luxury, especially if you’ve also got some at home.

I’m lucky, and inherited a shed initially so my gear had somewhere to live, but over time I developed an appreciation of my shed as more than just a store for my tools. I’m fortunate enough to have space for one too, but I’d not be without it now. Besides, where else would I nip off to when I get caught short!

Merv, a nearby plotholder, keeps his tools under a tarpaulin, but depending on the area’s crime rate and the value of your tools, that might not be a practical solution.

Seedlings on a Bike?
Transporting seedlings and produce could be difficult without a car if you lived a fair way from the allotment site, but I do reckon it could be done with a bike basket and careful use of pannier bags. Someone who lives down my road reckoned he moved houses using nothing but a bike, albeit in 44 trips!

For me, the biggest problem would be manure. There are numbers I can call for manure delivery, but not having a car limits me to certain suppliers. This year I found the most amazing, well rotted manure but without a car I’d still be using the strawy stuff that gets delivered to the allotments.

I’ve no doubt that there are plotholders out there who get by perfectly fine without a car, so how do they do it? If that’s you, how do you get on? Are there times when you really wish the car was there, or actually, is it refreshing to be free from the car every once in a while?

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8 Comments

  1. gemFebruary 21, 2012 at 7:51 pmReply

    We have a lady who bikes and has a allotment on our local site , our allotment site is friendly and we help each other out , yes a shed for tools etc but manure and other heavier items im sure you could ask a fellow allotment holder to help , within one month of getting ours we had loads of help and advice and we also have two lovely men who look after and over see the allotments . So hopefully you will have too :) . I love walking to our allotment , brillant exercise and for me it helps me with my diabetes , exercise wise and just something to help take my mind off lifes woes ! Car or not allotment is a must :)
    Gem Colchester

  2. Jo-AnnFebruary 21, 2012 at 8:24 pmReply

    Hello
    I don’t have a car, or a bike. My plot is about 10 – 15 minute walk from home. I also don’t have a shed – I keep my fork in my (now redundant) cold frame. I’ve found the green rubbish bit of a problem. Like you I tend to do a lot of mass weeding -last year when my allotment and I weren’t working together very well this meant bags of green waste building up. People on the allotment offered to take it but it never really happened. Every so often when someone visits I cheekily ask if they can take me to the dump. As for carrying seedlings – little and often. I think if my plot was further away from home it would have been a lot harder. I say you don’t need a car – you need to be organised!
    Hope this helps

  3. Julieanne Porter (@GwenfarsLottie)February 21, 2012 at 9:50 pmReply

    We got rid of our car nearly 3 years ago and mainly use bikes. My partner’s bike has a trailer that you can take on and off, so this is great for carting stuff to and from the lottie (and also for large shopping trips), from seedlings to bags of weeds and our whipper snipper. I’ve also use my bike panniers, and/or have bungy ropes holding stuff down carefully between the 10 minute cycle from our house to the lottie. So with a bit of planning, you can largely have an allotment without a car. I do admit that occasionally we need a car bigger jobs, like we we have done a big clear out and need to take stuff to the recycling centre. But we are members of a local car club and can hire a car from them for an hour or so when needed.

  4. HelenFebruary 22, 2012 at 6:37 pmReply

    Ive noticed at least one of my allotment neighbours travels via moped. She seems to leave her tools at the site but we aren’t allowed sheds so she leaves hers lying down to the side of the plot. I take my stuff backwards and forwards in my car but others find that weird and have built tool boxes from pallets for their tools. There is also someone who composts all her weeds and even the perennials she puts in separate bags to rot down on their own. I suppose people managed well enough before everyone had cars so you need to just get organised and maybe trade some seedlings or something with a fellow plot holder when you need something moved in a car

  5. Jono

    JonoFebruary 22, 2012 at 9:46 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi all, thanks for all the really good comments.

    Definitely seems like being organised is the key.

    Love the idea of a bike trailer. I wonder how big a trailer of manure I could pull along on a bike??

    And Helen, you’re definitely right – we forget people were doing this stuff well before we had cars. Blimey, my house was built before the car, I’m sure I can shift a few plants about!

  6. AlisonFebruary 24, 2012 at 6:42 pmReply

    I don’t drive but my husband does and is happy to help out when I have a lot of things to shift. Mostly I don’t need the car. I used to load or hang lots of things onto my bike and then push it! Then someone gave me a tricycle with a big basket on the back. Bliss! I don’t take manure (except guinea pig hutch clearings) to the plot, using compost, comfrey, urine and green manure instead. I rot down mounds of perennial weeds in the dark under a water permeable carpet for a long time until they turn into a lovely loam. Woody material is building up on the plot – but maybe I could build a Hugel bed – basically a raised bed built around an inner core of woody material – they are said to be very productive – but I’d have to dig a BIG trench first! Anyway all fun and games!:)

  7. JohnFebruary 25, 2012 at 7:27 pmReply

    I walk to my lottie which is about 15 mins away. One tip is get an army kitbag from an army surplus shop. Dirt cheap and can be used for carrying bulky items like tools.
    If there is a tree or permanent structure a cycle security chain can be used to secure tools left hidden on site.
    Seedling trays fit well into the large ‘bag for life’ type shopping bags or like you say cycle/pannier bags.

  8. TimFebruary 26, 2012 at 11:08 amReply

    I had planned on only occasionally driving to the plot but mostly walking, but have ended up mostly driving and only occasionally walking instead.

    That’s partly because anything left on the plot would just get nicked so there’s lots to carry (sheds are routinely broken into), and partly because the hour spent walking there and back is an hour not spent on the plot.

    Hopefully as the days get longer I’ll be able to find the time to walk more often.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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