If you are an allotment beginner, you will need the help of some handy tools and equipment to be kept at your plot but before you do, you will need to ensure you have a safe and secure shed or storage to keep it all locked up.
There are many obvious basics, and some will depend on your methodology and preference, but we hope this page helps you decide. Don't forget; before you buy, think about what you already have and no longer use, maybe you can recycle items for this purpose.
Before you undertake any work, be prepared and dress for the job! Wellies or old walking boots, waterproofs and clothes that you don't mind getting dirty or possibly ripped. Think layers for wrapping up or cooling down, keeping dry and warm. Even during the summer, it is better to wear thin, loose but long-sleeved tops and full-length trousers to save getting scratched by anything prickly like fruit bushes or bitten by insects. A hat if it's hot and sunny; a woolly hat if it is cold. Garden gloves and any protective wear depending on the task in hand.
It is worth keeping spares and footwear to change into, to save bringing home lots of soil and dirt via the car.
A flask and lunch box - A cup of tea at the plot goes down a treat and you should stay hydrated; especially if you are doing some heavy-going physical work. A water bottle, refreshments and snacks to keep you going. Some growers use camping stoves and equipment at their plots. Do check for permission first if you are hoping to have a BBQ or bonfire as some sites do not permit it.
A water butt with drainpipe and guttering fitted to your shed is a great way of storing water and recycling the rain.
A watering can - Maybe a few so helpers can join you and save time.
You would not be able to use a hosepipe as there would not be enough pressure from tank taps supplied on your site, it's also not deemed ethical to use them.
Many growers use open ended bottles and pots, sunken into the soil to direct rain-water to the roots of their plants.
Soil Preparation, Maintenance and Planting
A spade, a fork for digging and breaking up the soil as well as pulling up larger weeds and shovelling compost and soil.
Handheld trowel and fork for some low maintenance weeding or careful weeding around shallow rooted crops.
A hoe does a great job of weeding as well as helping to break down lumps of soil.
A rake for more soil fine tuning and sweeping up debris.
Some growers opt to use petrol powered rotavators for turning their plots over as well as a petrol lawn mower if you have grassed areas. There are also battery powered tools you can buy including strimmers, which can be great for edges and over-grown areas.
A bulb planter is a handy tool for popping bulbs down deep into the soil. A knee pad may help with comfort if you are doing some light weeding.
Have a handy basket or bag for gathering weeds as you work and another for harvesting when the time comes.
For heavier soil work, you may benefit from a wheelbarrow to shift quantities from one bed to another or to move compost about.
Until seedlings become established, sometimes we can forget what we have sown and where, so plant labels are always good to stick in the ground.
There will be plants that will require support so always have a supply of canes and sticks or poles. Some ties, string and handy hardware to help train your climbers and to help your taller plants.
Netting is always useful to help protect the crops; you will need finer mesh-type netting with much smaller holes for some plants. Netting can come in a range of types and sizes for different uses.
Pots and trays from plants you've bought come in handy when it comes to sowing your seeds or you may want to buy a propagator. Large containers can be used around your plot to save space as well as making the plot more attractive with colourful flowers.
There are also some big investments you could make such as a greenhouse or large polytunnel and you can also do this on a smaller scale and with cloches, cold frames and DIY projects. Some sites will require permission to be sought before erecting any sizeable structures. Fruit cages and brassica cages are popular on allotment plots. If you are considering the smaller, cheaper 'greenhouse' frames with plastic coverings, be mindful of the winds - Many self-assembly garden kits get strewn around allotment sites and the plants get damaged in the process. They need to be secured down well in a sheltered yet sunny position.
Don't forget the scarecrow! You can use many items to deter birds including old C.D.'s on string, bunting and more.
Plant food, fertilisers, insect and pest repellents are useful to have. Try to use chemical-free products or home-made remedies where you can.
Straw and mulch supplies and compost, growing bags and manure will be well used, in time you can produce some of these yourself or source locally for free.
Pruning and Harvesting
Not just limited to these tasks, but secateurs, sheers and cutting tools are always handy to have for several jobs.
A handy tool belt or bag is useful for blitzing those little jobs as you walk around the plot.
When you are harvesting your crops, have some suitable vessels for transporting them home. Obvious, but for example, you will not want to mix loose, squashy raspberries with large muddy carrots in the one bag or box!
There are no bounds when it comes to this information, and you can decide which items of your own you want to prioritise. You might deem some of them unnecessary to take if you have them at home; the choice is yours.
First Aid kit. Well accidents do happen; even just a pack of plasters or some antiseptic wipes can save a trip back home, disrupting your day. Do seek immediate medical attention if you are suffering with anything more serious. We often wile away too much time in the full sun, only to find we are rather pink and tender by the end of the day so suncream is handy to have.
Personal belongings like your mobile phone, keys, wallet should be put somewhere safe before you begin to work. Zip up your mobile in your pocket. Many growers lose valuable items in the soil during digging!
If you prefer paper to screens, take a book for a well-earned break in the sunshine. You will be thankful for a bench or chair to sit on!
We touched on refreshments earlier on this page but your plot is a lovely place to have a picnic and refuel.
A torch could be useful if you are working during the evening. We often work for as long as we can until dusk and then need to lock up our equipment and walk back to the car, only to find it's pitch dark!
In summary, our ideas are not exhaustive, and we welcome any suggestions of your own. There are many handy gardening gadgets on the market too - Which tools that growers deem as must-haves, varies widely and depends on your budget also. If you have a few basics to do the things you want to do, you can build on your equipment in time, you can always 'borrow' tools from a friendly plot neighbour if they are happy to lend you theirs. Do ask first!
Growers sometimes evolve their growing to specialise in one type of crop or a type of growing - You may decide to do No-Dig and therefore will not need to dig your plot and will likely be collecting cardboard.
You might like to know your exact soil type and temperatures and invest in those specialist items.
Whatever your approach is; whether it is to potter and take your time or use it as a form of exercise or to fit plot work in around a busy schedule, you will probably find your balance of convenience and necessity.
The key is to enjoy it!