Real Men Sow

What’s Your Allotment Guilty Secret?

This is mine:

It’s a Honda mini-tiller, and I use it to loosen up my soil in the spring. I still weed properly, and do the rough dig in Autumn, but employ this to finish off before sowing.

Some of the old boys give me a gentle raise of the eyebrows when they see me with it, so I try to use the tiller on quiet days. I know it’s not traditional, and I know it’s lazy. I also know it uses petrol, and perhaps isn’t quite in the spirit of things, but my goodness does it make nice soil.

It’s Not Mine!
In my defense, the tiller’s not mine. My dad, in his annual state of birthday panic, usually decides that something for the garden is a good gift for mum. A couple of years ago, he was feeling particularly generous, and splashed out on the tiller. The only problem is that dad knows nothing about mum’s garden. If he did, he’d have realized that the garden is well established, and there is no where that needs a tool like this.

So Quick
The same thing cannot be said for the allotment, and each year I take it over, feeling slightly guilty as I start up the little 25cc engine. Really I should be digging and hoeing and all these old fashioned, time-honoured methods, but… well, the soil just looks incredibly good afterwards. And it’s so, so quick.

What’s Your Guilty Secret?
It got me thinking about other allotment guilty secrets. My friend, for example, pays his little nephew a penny for every stone he picks out of the beds, while a nearby plotholder regularly sneaks down late in the day with a hosepipe and waters his plants. I swear some of the old boys only have an allotment to get away and gossip too, and pop into the shop for veg on the way home, but I’m yet to prove this!

I’ve got to be honest and recommend the tiller if you ever feel inclined to splash out on a new fancy toy. It’s easy to transport and store, a doddle to use and whips up the most beautiful soil I’ve ever seen.

Just please don’t tell anyone I said so. I’m a traditionalist. Honest.

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  1. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLifeMarch 9, 2011 at 3:03 pmReply

    I’m not sure I have any guilty growing secrets – although I guess in some circles, I do keep quiet about some of the seeds I use (cheap’n'cheerfuls rather exciting heirloom strains).

    But I don’t think you should feel guilty about your petrol-powered friend – your time is limited so why not outsource (in this case to a machine) jobs that can be outsourced, so you can concentrate on the ones that can’t?

    • Jono

      JonoMarch 9, 2011 at 9:57 pmReplyAuthor

      Thanks for the comments as always!

      Louisa – haha, ‘outsource’, I like that! Its very true what you say about time. And truth be told, the tiller sorts out the earth far better than I ever could, even if I spend a week on it.

      Alan – Good point about the spade. And I think you’re right about making the most of your time with regards to enjoyment. Its important to focus on what makes you happiest when out in the garden.

  2. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!March 9, 2011 at 7:31 pmReply

    Unless your secret is “I steal plants from other gardens and plant them as my own” I think it’s anything goes in the garden. Do you shun the gardener who uses a metal spade instead of the historical “pointed stick” for digging a hole? Use whatever method gives you the results you want, and makes your time in the garden most enjoyable.

  3. MariaMarch 10, 2011 at 1:00 pmReply

    Jono, if I ever get an allotment (waiting list) I know I would be tempted to use a tiller for at least part of the work! I just wouldn’t have the time (or right now, the muscle power) to do it all by hand – I’ve seen the state of some of the overgrown plots, and it would take a loooong time to clear all that by hand.
    PS I know, though, not to use a tiller on something like… bindweed, hahaha, which just multiplies and laughs at you.

    • Jono

      JonoMarch 10, 2011 at 10:30 pmReplyAuthor

      Hey Maria,

      Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about some of the overgrown plots. I don’t like to say it, but I reckon the worst ones at our allotments would never get cleared without the use of a rotovator. I reckon it would take at least one growing season of clearing before you could even plant anything!

  4. Sara VennMarch 10, 2011 at 9:30 pmReply

    Hey Jono. Here’s a revelation for you…I have been known to buy ready grown seedlings of brassicas to put in the allotment and, very occasionally, I spray weedkiller!!!! And you are so right-that tiller akes beaurtiful soil and tbh I am a bit jealous of you having it!!!!

    • Jono

      JonoMarch 10, 2011 at 10:37 pmReplyAuthor

      Hi Sara,

      Haha, I have bought a few ready grown seedlings. Red cabbage especially. I’m thinking of cheating with the chillis this year as well, and buying seedlings.

      I’m not convinced my other half doesn’t have a cheeky spray when I’m not looking either!

  5. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » What’s Your Allotment Secret Weapon?April 7, 2011 at 5:53 pmReply

    [...] A few weeks back, I posted about my allotment guilty secret – a Honda mini-tiller, that I use to give my soil the perfect tilth before planting. [...]

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About Real Men Sow

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, three years on, 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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