What Makes a Great Gardening Shoe?

Garening Shoe UnisexAfter much research on the Wellington boot and on various other gardening boots and mucker’s I decided that for some occasions the Welly shoe would be the better bet.

I walk to the allotment.  A Wellington boot is heavy and an awkward shape, especially when there are lots of plants or other bits to carry.

On our allotment, the grass between plots is often cut so you can get away with a Welly shoe sometimes instead of a boot.  (Although this is not always the case then you get soggy trousers!).

So, after traipsing around various shops and garden centres one thing became clear – they didn’t have what I was looking for.  The shoes they sold were more like clogs with either backs or low backs, really!?  These are great for slipping on in the garden and great for slipping over too – not much use for the allotment.

So, back to on-line and searching again lol.  I don’t know about you, but without the online options, I would be seriously stuck.

 

My criteria for my new shoes were quite strict

  1. They must have proper high backs as they are being used for work and need to stay on my feet.
  2. The shoe needs to be robust and sturdy.
  3. Being waterproof is essential.
  4. They must have good deep tread, and ideally be ideally non-slip if possible.
  5. They must not cost too much, I think between £7-£12 including postage max would be OK.
  6. And the brand must have a good reputation for lasting as my first set of boots split within a couple of months.

After several days and days of shoe research, I got it down to the last few. Then it was just a matter of which shoe was best.  I came up with this one:

The Dunlop Gardening Shoe for Both Men and Women

Garening ShoeThis shoe filled all of my criteria.  Dunlop has a good reputation and I hoped that they hadn’t sold out and were a name only.

I was not disappointed.  They are really sturdy and comfy with chunky but not intrusive tred and for the most part, they do not seem to slip.

They are suitable for both men and women.  They are really high quality.  For the tiny price tag of about £10 and with no postage, a bonus.  And, they had proper backs which is often easy to miss. (If you are searching on-line pay careful attention to the backs of the shoe to this as the words clog and shoe seem to be interchangeable).

I use them for digging and so far (touch wood) they have not split and seem to take the tough life of the allotment well.

Dunlop Gardening Shoe, Goloshes, Clog. Waterproof. These are Unisex Sizes 3-11 UK

The Size of the Shoe

The only issue I found which was mentioned in the reviews was that the shoes are at least half a size too big.  This, I assume is so you can wear big, warm socks.  But, these days with hi-tec socks being much thinner it isn’t necessary to make them larger.  I used my walking socks and a second pair to get them to fit.

I guess, you could always use shoe inserts to give a more permanent solution. I am not sure you’d get away with going the next size down, though.  Oddly enough, I only notice this on the walk to the allotment not when I am actually on it.  You can’t have them flopping about all over the place for safety reasons.

An Exciting Revolution in Homegrown Edibles

Homegrown Revolution PHoto
James Wongs Homegrown Revolution

I am so excited.  While at my mum’s, I came across some information that blows the normal gardening books out of the water.

This book is a breath of fresh air.

It has a huge range of exciting new plants, fruit and herbs that are not normally mentioned in your usual allotment books, that you can grow.

When I showed this to my sister she went and got one, then my other sister saw it when she visited and was reading it within minutes.  She now has a copy!

Who is it for?

Homegrown Revolution PHoto
James Wongs Homegrown Revolution

Anyone who wants to grow something more than the normal range of fruit, herbs and vegetables.  Or if you want to try something new and different.

Many of the exotic plants that you would think would be hard to grow are in fact (according to the book, experiments are being done now) surprisingly easy.  Each is marked with growing difficulty as well as the usual needs and sizes.

I see no reason, therefore why someone new to gardening should not have the joy of planting these exciting range of plants, bushes and trees.  In fact, from what he says many are more pest resistant than many of the old time favourites.

James Wong's Homegrown Revolution

Who isn’t it for

If you are looking for information on how to choose and/or set up an allotment then this book isn’t for you – yet.  That is not to say it isn’t worth getting, only that it does not cover this area.  If you are just starting out the best types of books to get are those that give great advice on choosing and starting out on your exciting allotment journey.

James Wong’s Home-grown Revolution Book is a Breath of Fresh Air For Growers

James Wong wrote this book because he was fed up with the same old, same old books with the same plants, fruits and herbs in them, all pretty much saying the same old thing.

He says that we are stuck in the war era with our growing.  The government decided then what we should grow and we haven’t for the most part, moved on from that.

There is nothing wrong with what we grow, it is just we as a nation have moved on with what we will eat, but still grow the same tired old stuff.  Now, I love cabbage, runner beans and broccoli and many of the others, so will still be growing many of the favourites.  However, there is a whole new world of growing out there to be explored.  It is so exciting, I can’t wait.

This book explores that world and opens up a whole new and exciting world of planting.  Some, I admit are in fact old herbs forgotten and unloved while others like the Cucamelon and the Inca Berry are not so well known here.

The book is well written.  I love the way James Wong writes, his voice clearly coming through and making the book come to life.  While clearly knowledgeable, he has an informal approach that is refreshing and easy to connect with.

It is also laid out well with beautiful pictures and clear explanations.  If I were to fault it at all, it would be that each of the sections were all in a sage green so you cannot easily see where the fruit starts and herbs end, for example.  But this is nitpicking and so minor.

Due to the unusual nature of many of the plants he has included a recipe idea which is a great idea.  There is also a recipe on the seed packets.

 The Experiments

This year I will be taking some of these ideas and trying them out for myself.  You will be able to see the results here in the experiments section.

The Varying Types of Garden Forks and Their Uses

The Varying Types of Garden Forks and Their UsesWhile there are many types of garden forks that you can have most people I know tend only to have one that they use for everything. Or if they have more they are of the same type.  These are usually the garden fork.

Or if they have more they are of the same type.  These are usually the garden fork.

Knowing each type of fork and their uses will help you choose the best tool for you and for the job you want it for.

There are several types of forks for the garden.  These include the garden and digging forks, the border, the potato and the pitch or compost forks.

The Varying Types of Forks for the Garden and What They Are Used For

Garden and Digging Forks The Main Fork To Have

garden or digging forksGarden forks tend to be the main fork used in the UK.  These usually have four tines or prongs. These are what most people use for most tasks in the garden.  These are used for digging, turning and breaking up of the soil.  They are great for parts of the country that have heavy clay like where I live.  They are also often used instead of the other kinds of forks for lifting potatoes and turning of compost.

In the US they also have a digging fork which is a cleverly designed fork with wide flattish diamond shaped prongs to make digging easier.

See digging forks

Border Forks The Perfect Tool for Smaller Spaces or People

border forksThese are smaller versions of the garden fork.  Again with four tines.  They are simply lighter and narrower so are better suited to smaller feet as well as to borders.  They are great for people who are smaller or find the full-sized fork too heavy and wearing to use.  I use these because the full sized ones are too heavy and big for my small feet.

Some people may find they do not like the angle of their foot on the border fork and that it may slip off.  Some also find that it is not strong enough for the tougher parts in gardening and that due to it’s smaller size it takes longer to dig over the ground.

My own view is that if you are a smaller person you may find you would soon get tired of wielding a larger too so there would be no advantage to it digging a larger space.  The angle of my foot has never been a problem (size EU 38 feet) yet it would probably slip if you had larger feet.

Note:  The top two options are where I would recommend you start and invest in the best quality you can get of either of these as these and the spades are what do the heaviest work.  This will not only save money in the longer term but also make working easier and more enjoyable.

If budgets are tight, then go at least for a mid-range tool.

What to Look for in your Garden and Border Forks: You need strong tines that ideally are all from on piece of metal as this is stronger.  Tine width does vary.  You need a rust free or resistant metal.  The tines should glide easily through the soil.

It should be lightweight and well balanced with a comfortable easy to grip handle.  Shaft materials and length are a matter of personal choice. However, a well-made fork can last a lifetime and beyond if well looked after.

Explore different  Border forks.

Lift Potatoes with a Potato Fork

potato forksThere are all kinds and designs of potato forks.  These are meant only for potato lifting and not to be used to dig because they have blunt ends to prevent you putting holes in the potatoes.  Some have the same amount of tines as a normal fork however many also have more tines so the potatoes don’t fall through the gaps.

What to Look For in Your Potato Fork:  More tines will mean you easily dig up more potatoes that you might otherwise have missed.  You would also be better off with a slightly heavier steel as the fork is holding quite a lot of weight and needs to be able to lift the potatoes.  You don’t want anything that is too heavy though as you are already lifting a reasonable weight.  Also, heavier tines are less prone to damage.

More potato forks

Pitch or Compost Forks

pitch or manure forksThese are usually used for hay and straw and also for turning your compost heap over. These are quite different in look from other forks.  While they still have 4 tines they are long and slender.  They are also usually curved to hold more compost.  The tines are very sharp so they can stab the compost better.

What to look for in Your Compost Fork:  Look for quality well balanced and strong designs with longer wide set tines that hold more.

See pitch forks here

Border Forks, Great For Small Places or Smaller Feet

Border Forks, Great For Small Places or Smaller FeetBorder forks are great for borders, weeding, lifting and compost.  They are also great for small places, ladies and smaller people with small feet.  I tend to use mine for all my main digging rather than a bigger fork as I find the larger forks too heavy to work with.

I would not recommend these as your main digging tool unless you are a smaller person and struggling with the larger ones.  I would say anyone with up to a size 5 (38) foot could use one of these if they wanted to.  Larger feet tend to slip off the edges.  Mine do sometimes but feel this is a good compromise for me personally rather than struggling.

They should be the same in all ways as a larger fork but just not as heavy and wide.  Though of course these days there are stronger and lighter materials even for bigger forks.

Below are some examples of Border Forks from the low, mid and high price ranges along with what you can expect to get and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Great Value for a Budget Fork

Elements Boarder Fork Photo

This is a great tool for someone who is shorter as it is smaller and at just under 2kg which is quite light (about the weight of an average laptop).  This will make it easier to use and work your plot.

This fork has extremely good feedback for a tool in the lower end of the price range.  It is also a traditional ash wood which many people will love.

It is made of heat treated carbon steel and is epoxy coated to protect it from rust which is always important if you are getting carbon steel as opposed to steel.

What drew me to this fork is the shaft is made of ash.  I like many others love the traditional wood finish.  Also, I took note of the fact is looks like the grain is fairly straight.

The handle also looks comfy and easy to grasp and well positioned for easy digging.

While it is well made and quite good value for the price I feel that it isn’t suited to the heavier clay soils and would be OK for the lighter soils.

In my view, it would be better if you need something stronger to go for the mid or higher range of forks.

Spear & Jackson - Elements Border Fork

Mid to Higher Value Fork for Longer Lasting Usage

 

Again excellent feedback.  I do feel for only a few pounds more you are getting a lot more quality for your money.

Draper Border Fork

 

 

 

 

Draper Expert 36677 Stainless Steel Heritage Border Fork with FSC Certified Ash Handle


Just comparing the two heads this looks stronger but then the original price of this fork is in the higher range.  This one is made of hardened steel so you don’t have to worry about rust.  It is a strong fork.

I love the wood shafts, the quality wood ones were much more expensive than the plastic and take more care.

I like that this fork’s shaft is created from FSC forest wood so you know you are not damaging the environment when buying it.

I was surprised at the weight only being just under 1.5kg though that is still quite light for such a strong fork.

I love that the handle is easy to grip as this is great to ease the pressure on your hands.

Mid to Higher Range For Long Lasting Durability

solid forged border fork photoWhat I like about this fork is it is a strong traditional heard wearing designed fork.

It comes from a company that have been making garden tools in England for 200 years. They make quality tools.

Because it is solid forged out of one piece of unique specification steel that makes it very strong and less likely to break.

The grain in the ash handle is completely straight.

Alan Titchmarsh Solid Forged Border Fork

Finding or Creating Types of Garden Netting Frames That Work

Most garden netting requires some kind of frame.  Knowing which ones that will work best can be a nightmare when you are starting out.  If you look around at the other allotments it will give you ideas but will not help as they are usually all different.

When I was asking which type of netting would be best I was given the best advice I could have been, although it didn’t feel like it at the time.  They simply said that I would find what was right for me over time.

This did not answer any of my questions like:  What size should I get?  Should I have curved or straight?  Is bamboo better than metal? Which is easiest?  And much more.

So I will say the same to you.  You will discover what is best for you in time.  For each person it is different.  You do need a net, however, unless you want your plants taken out!

I will however also give you some ideas based on my experience, research and observations so that you can make a more informed decision early on.

Making Your Own

The Most Basic of Netting Frame

The most basic frame I have seen is simply net resting over some thick sticks and tied down on each side.  This is cheap and easy to do.  Although it may not suit all plants.

Using Bamboo Lashed Together

Bamboo Frame

Basing my netting plans on my neighbour’s beautiful and easy to get into frames but without the budget, my first attempts were quite elaborate.  I lashed together bamboo using nothing more than ties twisted around them.

A huge fame that took up most of one side of the allotment.  This was designed so that all I had to do was untwist a couple of the ties and I could get into it and garden with ease.

Good plan.  But it failed.  What I didn’t take into account was the nets tendency to get tangled in everything around it or its movement in the wind.  It had small barbs as well so that when I moved it back it caught in itself.  Argh!

In my defence, it withstood the winter storms.

There is no reason why you cannot simply lash bamboo together to create a frame and put the net over it.  Alternatively, you could create each frame side complete with a net then lash the frames together.

Or you can use connectors to connect your bamboo more smoothly.

Bamboo connector

 

Selections GFA662 Bamboo Cane Flexible Connectors (Set of 10)

Frames Made from Hosepipe

Still basing my plans on my neighbour’s  bought version I tried again.  This time I used a hosepipe.  This is not bad in itself but my hosepipe wasn’t stiff enough.  You really need the strong blue pipe that doesn’t bend.

I stuffed bamboo up it and put that into the ground.  I also had wire.  The intention was that I could slide the netting up and down the wire for easy access and that it would not tangle.

Making A Strong Structure from Hosepipe

The way most people do this is to make a wooden base the size needed then to staple the curved pipe along it.  Finally, they put over the net and staple that to it as well.  This creates a permanent structure that fits over your beds and that can be moved when you want to.

The disadvantage of this is you have to lift the whole thing up to get to weed or get your produce.

Discovering Balls

Netting BallI love netting balls.  Simple things and all that. My sister finally found some in the Range and bought them for me.  All you do is pop a bamboo into each corner (use extra for a longer bed) pop the balls onto the top and you have your frame.  Pop the netting over the top and pin it down. Done.

Out of all the netting (including the bought), this has been the fastest and easiest to put up and also to use.  Also, the cost is relatively small if you are starting out and either don’t want to or can’t invest a lot in your netting.

Alternatives: Some people use old tennis balls.

Making Larger Wooden Structures

Some people have much larger structures.  These are all sizes right up to walk in frames for fruit.  These are made from wood.  Often recycled bits rather than bought.  These are then joined together to make a box.  The corners are strengthened with diagonals.

The box frame is then covered either in normal plastic netting or chicken wire.

The advantage is it is more sturdy and will last longer.  It is cheap to make.

The disadvantages are that larger structures are more suited to crops that do not rotate as you will have to move them each year.  Also, you will need basic DIY skills and tools to make them.

I have seen people with these covering brassicas and while they do keep off the birds they do not keep out the cabbage white (but then neither does netting!)

Is a Curved or Straight Frame Best?

I like curved simply because I like the shape better.  However, plants grow up and out.  A curved structure goes up and in.  A lot of people use them, however, this needs to be noted when thinking about what you are going to use as it can limit growth depending on the size of the surround.

Bought Are Better?

Fruit FrameI have a bought frame for my established fruit bushes.  It simply stays there all year and I removed the net after fruiting.  The advantage is that it is quite large and you can walk into it to collect the fruit.  The disadvantage is also that it is large.  Believe it or not, the wind took the frame and threw it across several allotments, hence the binding down one side.

Bought frames can be a considerable investment.  If you are new and not sure if this is for you yet then it is probably better to stay clear of a bought frame until you are sure.

They are stronger and last longer than the temporary bamboo ones.

Arched Mesh for Protection

Mesh FrameThis is where my neighbour’s protection comes in.  She has four beautiful arched mesh covers that she uses.  Although technically a cloche, the protection is similar. The cost was around £84 each.  When she wants something she just unzips them.  Sigh.  Now these are not so much net as mesh, which is better as the cabbage white cannot get through.  The mesh does let rain water through.  There is also a fleece cover that can be used to keep plants warm in spring.  They are easy and fast to put up if you take them down and can be transported from bed to bed.

The disadvantage is the initial cost.  If you have something that does require insects you will need to unzip them.  Also again they are quite large and my neighbour found hers strewn across other allotments last winter.  You have to have the size that is for sale and not your own size.

 

Metal Frames

Fruit Cages

fruit cage

Gardman 3 x 2 x 2m Large Fruit Cage

Fruit cages come in all sizes and are not only great for fruit but also on other beds or square foot gardening.

Fruit cages tend to be 6 foot high to allow you to get in to pick the fruit.  Although of course, you can use shorter ones if you prefer.

They are great because you have a solid structure that is designed not to rust that you can apply different kinds of netting to.

It is easier to attach your net to the solid frame than a crossed bamboo one.

It is a good idea to pin them to the ground to help prevent movement.

Easy Access Tip: If you use clamps on your net down one side you can undo them for quick and easy access.

Saving Money Tip: My sister discovered this.  She bought a fruit frame for her veg bed when it was on offer.  Then she got a larger bed.  She inserted a bamboo cane between the two metal ones to extend the length of the frame.  It bends a bit in the middle and is not quite so strong but it does the job and saved her buying a bigger one.

Vegetable Cages

These are pretty much the same as for fruit however they tend to be only 4 foot high which is more than enough height for most vegetables.  The lower height also reduces the cost. veg cage
Vegetable Cage - 4ft high x 4ft wide x 6ft long

A Garden Storage Box, a Great Solution for Allotment or Garden Clutter

Garden storage boxes are great for allotments, gardens, yards and balconies. Anywhere, in fact, you cannot or do not want to have a larger shed.  They are often a fraction of the price of sheds and are also mobile.  They are great for storing tools, other equipment and cushions near where you want them.

My Shiny New Garden Storage Box

garden storage boxThis one was my birthday present from my mum this year, who I suspect got fed up with me moaning about hurting myself trying to get to my tools in the allotment’s only shed.  I was completely floored, what a lovely gift and totally unexpected.

I guess you have to be an allotmenteer (or gardener) to appreciate it. But, I was over the moon.  After a few years of walking up to the shed at the top of the field then often battling through junk to get out your tools it is fantastic. (Although I confess they had tidied it last time I went up)

What I have found with many of these is they don’t always fit in your tools like your forks and spades (my sister’s doesn’t).  This one does which is fantastic.  It says a total of 114cm but I think that includes the wheels and handles.

A Plastic, Outdoor Garden Tool Storage Box Chest, Shed with a Lid and Wheels 114cm x 51cm x 56cm (LxWxD)

We had such fun trying to put it together.  I think it was meant to be easy but we were in stitches.  Seriously, I think had we videoed it, we would have gone viral on YouTube!  I couldn’t get the panels in.  I’d push and push then all the sudden it would go in very easily.  Mum’s panels went in fine.  I am not sure I was doing it right as you didn’t really need to push hard.  It is all very clever with click and fit panels and no extra tools.  I think we should have put the box together at the allotment, but it did fit on the back seat of the car.

It gets loads in and keeps things dry and is a vast improvement on my previous storage solution for smaller items, which was my compost bin!

It is reasonably sturdy but I wouldn’t want to sit on it for any length of time. I confess I use mine as a table!

My Box Contents So Far

One Fork, spade, trowel, dibber, sieve, membrane, chicken manure, my mum’s edger, 3 red 10-litre watering cans (these take up a lot of space) a few small pots, garden net, a tape measure and a plastic cereal container, that I can remember.  So, they hold quite a lot of stuff.

On the Downside
It is not long enough for rakes or hoes. Of course on the allotment with wood chips, there’s not much point to having 2 wheels either, lol.

Other Popular Choices of Storage Box for your Garden

These two boxes below are popular.  One of the things that people say in the reviews is not to buy the cheap ones as they are not very good value for money and don’t last.  They are less sturdy and do not wear so well.  By cheap, I think by looking at the reviews they mean the boxes that are about £30, which are the cheap ones, but personally, I don’t think that is very cheap for a plastic box.

The Garden Seat Storage Box

This one is sturdy yet lightweight and easy to put together and in minutes.  One thing discussed was that someone put on a garden storage boxlong hooked lock.  This is a very good idea and one I didn’t think of.  This makes opening it easier.

This box is a bit longer than mine at 140cm.

And, wait for it – you can sit on it!!  Always handy in space-strapped gardens and allotments.  Just pop on some cushions and you have extra seating.

Plastic 390L A Beige Garden Storage / Comfy Cushion Box / Shed with sit on lid

 

Seating and Box Combined

I have seen one of these types of seats at out allotment.  They are very clever as you get a proper seat. This one is the same length as the other box at 140cm.
Garden seating storage box

The seat is very sturdy and stands up to all weathers including snow. And holds, snow removal spades, brushes and other longer tools.

This one takes longer to put together.  You would expect that as there is more to it (I dread to think how long it would have taken mum and me!)

On the downside, the instructions are not so great.

Keter Eden Plastic Garden Storage Bench Box - A huge 265 Litre capacity Brown

 

The Question of Locking Sheds or Boxes

There is a hole for a padlock to go fit on the box for added security.

One of the frequent debates that comes up on the allotment chat is should you lock your sheds?  As on the allotment wherever you are there is always the risk of a break in or vandals.  Many people say not to bother as the thieves will simply damage the shed to get to what they think is valuable anyway.

On our site due to not being allowed large sheds many have smaller ones or these boxes and they are locked.  So, it is a matter of choice as to which you think is best.  Our one and only allotment shed has had their doors ripped open twice in about 8 years.

Why Protect Your Plants with Insect Mesh?

Why Protect Your Plants with Insect Mesh?So which is best: garden netting or insect mesh?  That depends on what you want it for and your personal preferences.  Insect mesh does have some advantages over

Insect mesh does have some advantages over the garden netting.

But one thing is for certain is, if you have seen a Large or small cabbage white butterfly flying around something to protect your plants is a must!

Even with netting they can get through but it does hold back the worst and stop pigeons.

When Netting Gives the Illusion of Protection

I sat there and watched the cabbage white flutter up and down my protected cabbages.  I had a very small netting hole, they could not get through – or so I thought.  My sister had warned me this could happen, but you really have to see it for yourselves to fully appreciate the adaptability of nature.

The white butterfly settled on one of the plastic segments, folded it’s wings and slipped through triumphant into my brassica patch!

“Really!  What a cheek!”  I muttered rushing to the patch shooing the butterfly onto new pastures.

I’d always thought netting was enough.  But I was wrong.  While it may deter most butterflies, it won’t stop all of them.  Mesh is much finer and so will keep out the butterflies from your lovely green brassica patch!

However, when it comes to things that need the bees, if you cover them then netting is better, but for those precious brassicas and if you want to protect your carrots from carrot fly the mesh protects much better.  It will also protect whitefly and pigeons too.

The holes of the micro mesh are very tiny compared to netting, probably less and 0.5mm. Water does go through the holes so there is not additional watering (Phew!). You can get mesh either as a mesh only, or mesh as a grow tunnel in various sizes.

Mesh to Make Tunnels to Protect Your Plants

garden mesh photo

GARDEN  mesh only FINE INSECT PROTECTION MESH   6M X 2M

What I like about getting just mesh without any supports is it is easy to cut and shape to whatever size you want. So if like me you don’t have traditional rows but beds you can cover the whole bed.

Or if you do have traditional rows it is just as easy to use.

The disadvantage is that you need to provide some kind of support unless you intend to just sling it over the tops of the plants.  You can use poles fixed together with connection balls or buy the wire frame separately.

Ready Made Insect Mesh Grow Tunnel

insect mesh grow tunnel

The Advantages of a Tunnel

You do not have to put together any structure so it saves you time (Yay!).  It is less likely to have gaps as it is purpose built.  It is ideal for specific areas and protects well.

As you can pull and push the mesh it is easy to get into for weeding and maintenance or getting out your produce. The tunnel is fairly stable even in high winds.

Gardman  own Grow It Insect Mesh Grow Tunnel 08780D

Disadvantages of Using a Pre-Made Tunnel

The sizes are fixed so will not adapt to the whole or part of your beds or more than one row.

Overall Disadvantages of Both types

The main disadvantage of both types that I can see is that due to its fine mesh the wind is more likely to hit it and knock it about (although it has although been suggested that the tunnel is quite stable).

This may be a consideration if your allotment or garden is in an exposed area. My sister had this on her fruit bushes and the wind just blasted them.  However, in fairness, the cages were about 3 foot high!  This is the type of mesh that one lady on our allotments used to great success in growing her carrots, something that doesn’t grow well on our site.  And this site is very exposed.

How To Decide on a Simple Vegetable Crop Rotation

Crop Rotation

A simple vegetable crop rotation can be easy to create.  Yet for many beginners, it is confusing as you read several books or ask different people and find they all do it differently.

So just how do we create a simple easy to follow vegetable crop rotation plan that is successful?

The main reasons for rotating your crops is to reduced pests and diseases and allocate areas for your crops which help to improve the soil structure and keep it fertile.

You can choose to rotate your crops in 2,3,4,5 year rotations. With longer rotations being better and 3 years being acceptable and ideally not using the 2 2-year option.

What is Crop Rotation?

Crop Rotation is a method used by gardeners and allotment owners who grow veg of moving the crops each year so that the same crops are not in the same location. This reduces disease and pests and improves the soil.

Why Rotate Your Crops?

Some crops are prone to pests and diseases.  By rotating your crops you help improve your crops chances by either reducing or eliminating these.  Not all pests are affected by rotation. The cabbage white butterfly, for instance, will find them where ever they are.  By moving your veggies you stop the pests that are there whipping out and devouring the nearby crops.  This gives you and your crops more time to grow and establish themselves. And helps to reduce the build-up of the pests in the soil.

Do I have to Rotate My Crops?

No.  There are other methods of gardening that do not require you to rotate your crops.  These require you to mix your crops and grow many in one area.  If you are growing a single type of vegetable in one area, however, (ie all root veg, all legumes (peas, beans, lentils etc) then crop rotation is best.

Why Can It Be Confusing?

When I started, I asked many people and read several books.  While everyone agreed that the crops needed to be moved each year no one, not even the books seemed to agree on which goes where and in what order.

The main thing to remember is to rotate them.  This in itself helps a great deal. It is years now since I started and still the options and what people actually do vary considerably.  I know of people who do not move their runner beans at all when you consider that in their native lands they are annual and not annual this becomes understandable.

Apparently, Monty Don said that it is mainly the potatoes that are the issue and are the most important to move.

How Many Years Do I Rotate?

The minimum amount is for two years.  Most people rotate for three years.  However, for maximum benefit, four years is the ideal if you can.  This gives it time for the diseases to be eradicated.

I rotate as the picture above with four years with root vegetables, onions, beans and peas (although I don’t grow peas as much) and brassicas.

I have also started a winter rotation where I allocate a smaller space t winter crops.  although often these end up being used for summer ones instead.

Categories and Order of Planting

It is the categories and planting order that vary depending on where you read or who you ask.  If you are rotating you are half way there anyway.  There are several guidelines on how best to split them.

For a four-year crop rotation plan:

 

A 4 year crop rotation

***

  1. Root Vegetables – These include things like potatoes and carrots
  2. Onion Family – Onions, shallots and leeks
  3. Peas, Beans Legume – Peas, Mangetout, Runner Beans, French Beans etc
  4. Brassicas – Cabbage, Kale, Cornflour, Broccoli etc

For three years:

  1. Join the Root Vegetables and the Onion family together
  2. Peas, Beans and Legume
  3. Brassicas

The reasoning behind doing it in this order is because the root veg breaks up the ground which makes it easier for the other veg to grow.  Onions do not need a rich nitrogen soil.  The beans create nitrogen (You need to dig in their roots at the end of their season).  The brassicas then follow on as they need the nitrogen.  They take out the nitrogen and the cycle starts again.

There are a couple of conflicts with this method is that you are in fact growing the two types of root veg twice in a row.

Also, swedes are root veg and are also prone to club root.

So as you see it is not iron clad.

Video Showing a Simple 4 Year Crop Rotation

This video is interesting as he uses a slightly different crop choice for year 3 and 4.

Using Beds for Easy Crop Rotation

If you grow the traditional way with open soil and decide each time where you want to grow your crops it can quickly become confusing.  You will need to keep a note of what went where and when to avoid putting a crop back too early.

If, however, you use beds it is much easier as you simply allocate the beds 1,2,3 and 4 and you just move the crops forward each year.  Much like the video.

 What Plants Do Not Need To Be Rotated?

There are two types of plants that you do not need to rotate on a yearly basis.

The first is your longer term more permanent crops like apples, asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries (although the later two do need to be moved every few years)

The other is plants that do not suffer from the diseases, like lettuce and other salad leaves which can be planted in with the other slower growing plants if you are short on space.  Again it is recommended that you do not plant in the same place all the time.

How to Decide on What Garden Tools Are Best

How to Decide on What Garden Tools Are Best

How to Decide on What Garden Tools Are BestYou don’t have to spend a fortune on getting quality garden tools.  When you are starting out you can get away with a garden fork and slowly build up from there.

It is important to get the right tools for you though and that will vary from person to person.

Later in other pages, I will be doing specific tool reviews to give a more in-depth guide on the different options.

Here are some guidelines to think about when deciding on what garden tools to get.

What to Consider If You have a Disability

People with disabilities may have different requirements that they need to consider.  For instance, if you have a bad back or a muscle condition you may prefer a lighter weight tool.  Arthritic hands may be better off with hand-held handles that roll with them making use much easier on the hands.  It may be that you decide to go over to Square Foot Gardening where you don’t need any large tools and it is much easier.

Spade and Forks

Tool Length

The length of you tool is important.  If you are tall you may naturally prefer a longer tool.  Shorter people may find them more difficult to use.

Overall Weight of Your Tools

The weight of your tools is important.  You can pick up a tool in the shops and be fine.  But consider how you would feel after using it for digging for an hour or so.

Choosing the Materials of Your Shaft

Traditionally gardening shafts were made of wood.  If you are a traditionalist there are still many companies out there that make fantastic wooden forks and spades.

Quality garden fork and spade.

Explore   quality garden forks and spades

Things to consider if Choosing Wood

Wood can rot and weaken over time.  Although strongly not recommended, many gardeners do leave their tools outside and naturally, this will cause the wood to weaken.

Wood is often heavier than its modern counterparts.

Wooden shafts absorb any shocks you may receive well.  This helps reduce discomfort if gardening for a long time.

You can get different levels of quality in wood depending on the type of wood used and the straightness of the grain in the shaft.  With straight grains being stronger than ones that slope slightly.

Wood should be weatherproofed.

Other Material Options Stainless Steel Versus Carbon Steel

Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  With a higher carbon content, carbon steel is stronger than stainless steel. While stainless steel is not as prone to rusting out as carbon steel is.  Carbon steel is more likely to be brittle as well.

Carbon steel forks are coated with a coat of epoxy resin to protect from rusting.

There are varying qualities of tools in both materials.

Polypropylene

The Tool Head

Single Piece of Metal Verse Welded Metal

Cost of Tools Versus Their Value

If like most of us you are on a budget then the cost is an important factor.  Should you get the most expensive tool on the market or get the cheapest?

My view is to always go for the best quality you can.  For your main heavyweight tools that do most of the work like spades and forks, quality and durability are vital.  You may when starting an allotment or garden, either invest less in those tools that don’t take such a beating or leave them until later.  If the best quality is simply a mid-range tool then that is fine.  Just don’t go for cheap tools, they are a false economy.  They do not last and are not so comfortable to use.

 

Slug Wars – 13 Organic Solutions to Stop Slugs Eating Your Veg (Pt2)

13 Organic Solutions to Stop Slugs Eating Your VegetablesOrganic Slug Control Methods For those of us that do not want to use potentially harmful chemicals.  There are lots of possible organic slug killing solutions to getting rid of this persistent garden pest without using chemicals that harm plants and animals.

Some work better than others, and some are best used as a combination of a major attack plan to get rid of slugs from your plot or garden as quickly as possible.

Slugs hide out in the soil, decaying vegetation and under pots or the side of raised beds.  They are extremely resourceful. A constant action is needed to prevent them from eating everything.

Below is a list of possible organic slug killing solutions  that you can use to stop, slow down and kill the slugs in your garden.

Organic or Non-Toxic Methods of Slug Removal

  1. Salt barrier
  2. Egg Shells
  3. Coffee Grounds (organic only)
  4. Hair
  5. Ducks
  6. Wool pellets
  7. Copper Tape
  8. Organic slug pellets
  9. Nematodes
  10. Slug Traps
  11. Garlic Spray
  12. Squishing and Chopping
  13. Hand removal

Barriers 

1.  Salt

Salt can work well as when the slugs go over the salt it dries them up.  However, rain will wash out the salt into the soil and reduce how well it works.

2.  Egg shells as a Deterrent

garden slugEgg shells were recommended to me when I first started.  The slugs do not like climbing over the sharp edges.  I did not find this stopped them.  My sister also used this method and she had completely covered her tubs in shell but the slugs still got in.  We think they climbed up the walls and climbed across.

Only really truly organic if you buy organic eggs.  These are great to help with the battle, however, they should be used with other methods rather than relied upon on their own.

Photo by Richard G Hawley CC by ND 4.0

3.  Coffee Grounds

Many people have recommended using coffee grounds as the slugs do not like them.  You can get these from your local coffee shops like Costa or Starbucks.  Although these are less of a hazard than inorganic pellets they may not be strictly organic you would need to check your suppliers coffee to make sure. Maybe against EU law to use this method now though.  And how organic is would be would depend on your shampoo and conditioner.

4.  Hair

You can use your own hair removed from a hair brush or cut to stop them.  You would need a lot of hair though.

5. Ducks

Ducks like to eat slugs.

 6. Wool Pellets

wool pelletsWool pellets are designed to put a natural barrier up around your plants to prevent the slugs and snails from getting to them to eat them.

These pellets are completely natural soil association approved wool and are also recycled are organic.

They work by causing an irritant to the slug and also by absorbing their moisture.  In addition, they also reduce weed growth and release nutrients which is a great bonus.

Vitax Natural Wool Barrier Pellets 3.5L Slug Gone

 

  7.  Copper

Copper makes a great barrier.  However, you have to keep it clean or it loses its ability to stop the slugs.  Also, this assumes the slugs are not already in the soil or hiding out somewhere else.

Destruction Organically

8. Organic Slug Pellets

super organic slug killerAs mentioned in part one, slug pellets work really well.  However, many of the organic slug pellets are costly and do not work as well according to most people I have spoken to and my own experiences.

Slug pellets need to withstand rain and quite a lot of it here in (not so sunny) Cornwall.  There was one with great reviews that caught my eye.  Many people are happy with and say it works and that it withstands rain. As I said previously this didn’t work with the ones I got locally.  So this was music to my ears.

350g Organic Super Slug Killer Doff

9. Slug Nematodes

natural slug killerThis is probably one of the best solutions for organic slug killing as it is truly natural and non-chemical, unlike the organic pellets.  Nematodes are microscopic worms.  They decimate slug populations and kill them without the need for chemicals.

All you have to do it pick the right time, not too hot and dry or too cold. Raining is ideal. Following the instructions on the packet your water them into your garden.  This one pack covers 40 square meters.

As they are a living product they only last about three weeks in storage.  Once applied they last up to 6 weeks so if you first apply them in March you may need 2 applications.

12 million Slug Nematodes(this Treats 40sq.m)

 

 10.  Slug Traps

You can also buy slug traps that you can place in your ground.  These capture and kill the slugs.

 Deterrents

11. Garlic Spray

I have used garlic for my seedlings in the mini greenhouse and it does work to a degree but you have to keep on top of it.  As soon as it rains or you water the plants you have to re-apply.

All you do is crush up a couple of garlic cloves and pop into a water spray bottle.  You leave it a couple of hours and then spray. (It may pay to mix separately then strain as the bits of garlic clog up the spray).

Other Methods

Squishing or Chopping

Shudder!  I have accidentally done this but couldn’t do it on purpose, but if you are not squeamish you can go up in the evening with a torch and either squish them or cut them in half.

Hand Removal

I confess I don’t like killing anything really.  You can just go up in the evening and remove them.  Though what you do with them afterwards I am unsure as you are not meant to move them to a different location.

how to kill slugs organically