Sunday, 6 April 2014

Allotment geekery

On Saturday we were on a major clear up mission at the allotment, the weeds and grass have crept in and we have a lot of work to do.  Happily Malcolm from the plot across the way has offered to rotavate for us, all we have to do is move the raised beds and horseradish to one side so he can get there to do his thing.  Today the weather was bobbins so we didn't make it to the plot, instead we got more seeds planted and prepped, it got me thinking how much thriftier we are towards all things allotment in comparison to how we were when we first started.  So with that in mind I thought I would share some of the things that I have learnt along the way, not all of this will be earth shattering news but there may be the odd tip that comes in handy.

1. Absolutely, positively don't bother buying brand new tools.  They are so expensive and until you know that you love your allotment and can't imagine yourself not having an allotment there is NO point spending £20 plus on just one spade when you can get everything you need from the car boot sale.  The rake above which creates a lovely fine soil was a mere £2, I appreciate it isn't the best looking piece of kit but it does the job and that's all we need it to do. 

2. Save on seeds AND stop yourself from buying expensive coffee table gardening books.  Once the initial enthusiasm for the gardening books has passed we found we didn't refer to them that often.  We have perhaps two books that we go back to for reference but in your first year of owning a plot I would recommend subscribing to an allotment magazine like Grow Your Own or Kitchen Garden as they provide great tips and with almost every issue they give away all the seeds you could possibly need in your first year allotmenting!

3. Don't bother with expensive propagators or seed trays.  Even the more expensive plastic ones rarely last more than two years and you have to store them for 6 or more months a year.  From about December we start saving up our loo rolls (squeeze them and slot them in one another so they don't take up much space), we also start saving useful ice cream tubs or the packaging mushrooms come in so that when we're ready to get our seedlings going we have everything we need!  The bonus of this system is the loo rolls rot down and add texture to your compost, and the ice cream tubs can either be washed and used again or recycled, plus you don't have to store them year on year.

4.  Instead of buying bamboo canes for our beans each year we save the branch cuttings from our apple tree and use these.  In my opinion they look better than bamboo and at the end of the season can go on the bonfire.

5. Make friends with the ol' boys.  Malcolm loves his rotavator and for the price of a couple of ciders is happy to fire that bad boy up and give us a hand.  The wealth of knowledge available to you from those around you on the plot is incredible, just take a walk around the site and copy what everyone else is doing!

6. Start saving your margarine tubs now!  Come summer we will be lean, mean passata making machines and will need every tub we can get our hands on for freezing and storing.  The brick shape of the tubs make it easier to store in the freezer as well.

7. Once you have frozen, stored and used the veg in the margarine tubs rather than throwing them away, cut them up and use them as plant labels for next year.

8. Blanche and freeze as much as possible.  Stupidly we didn't do this in our first year and so much of our crop went back into the compost bin.  In the last couple of years we got ourselves organised and had runner beans and beetroot well into the winter which proved to be great additions to our soups and pizzas.

9. Sell your excess crop to family and friends.  I took armfuls of courgettes and beetroot into work last year and sold them to colleagues for charity.  Happily I have some keen cooks in my office who were happy to buy them and it made me really proud to see how impressed people were that we had grown the amazing looking veg.  Don't be cheeky with your pricing but don't do yourself down either you put time and effort into growing that veg!

10. MozzyMr's top tip would be use a separate pectin in your jam making (we use Certo which you can get in Waitrose or Lakeland) rather than buying jam sugar which is RIDICULOUSLY expensive in comparison.  Also if you have an Aldi near you buy your granulated sugar there as we have found it to be cheaper than the big supermarkets.

Well that's all I can think of right now, I hope they're of use!  


  1. Great money saving tips! :) xx

  2. Guru Anna, you are most helpful. Why did I not think about saving loo rolls, we certainly get through enough!! xx

  3. lots of top tips and inspiration, must get to the allotment .... and soon! x


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